Saturday, May 18, 2013

Keeping Bicycle Riders Safe

Rode to the other side of town yestereve. Pleasant weather. Gentle breeze. Acceptable temperatures. Unacceptable number of drivers who ignored pedestrian and bicycle traffic. It's pretty easy to believe you are Master or Mistress of your own Personal Universe when behind the wheel of an automobile. That's why it's so important as a rider to be aware of the limitations inherent in being a driver. Many of us ignore that element.

Yestereve, though, was a special event, apparently. An uncommonly large number of bicyclists were in the figurative grips of Gainesville's Finest. I was close enough to overhear one rider being lectured "you have the same rights and rules" as Gainesville's Fines began opening a pad, presumably to write a ticket or warning. In total, I saw four riders and eight Finest, distributed two to one, in a distance of less than 10 miles. It takes two cars to pull-over one rider?

I take no issue with making riders follow the rules, even where the rules are stupid, unnecessary or unreasonable. Happens to drivers all the time and we are no better than they are even if it makes no sense to make us stop forever at a light that will never change because we do not have the mass to cycle the light. Or to come to a full stop at a sign when it is clear that no other vehicles will pass through the intersection in the next ten to fifteen minutes. I favor the Idaho Stop (Idaho Statues 49-720). I also understand the attitude of drivers who think it should apply to them, too, but just as leash laws apply to dogs and not parkeets, I, as a rider of a 30 pound bicycle, pose no physical threat to an automobile in the same degree as a
5,549 pound Ford Expediton poses to me (and anything else). The idaho Stop simply makes good sense, most of the time.

Riders create their own problems when they assume the right-of-way at intersections. I make it a point to yield to drivers. I survived Vietnam. Why should I tempt fate and end it all over who-has-the-right-of-way-at-this-four-way-stop-sign? Generally, I am skilled enough to reach a motionless stop without pulling my feet from my toe straps when I am not the first of two or more vehicles at a four way stop. This is usually enough to encourage aware drivers to take their appropriate turn. If it isn't, I put my foot down and wait. Yeah, it is often a real waste of time, but it's not like thirty-two extra seconds will ruin my personal best time. I mean, come on! I average 12 to 13 miles an hour and I don't pedal standing up.

I am diligent about making my presence on a bike as unencumbering for drivers as possible. If I could wear a sign expressing that idea and the desire for reciprocation, I'd be much happier. Well, not with the sign, but with the reciprocation. I give as much room as I can do safely on rural roads, but don't encourage your undisplined Pit Bull to bark at me as you speed by. I mused recently about having a local driver honk his horn angrily on a rural road outside Bronson (well, most roads outside Bronson are rural, aren't they?). I crossed hundreds of miles of Georgia, South Carolina and North Carolina with no angry horn honking. So, what's up with this, especially since there was NO ON-COMING TRAFFIC and a clear view ahead?

Many of us need to be cited for our stupidity and ineptitude and that behavior simply makes those of us who take riding more seriously look bad. Be careful.

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