Bike lanes: Use them or lose them
SAFE, for Safety As Floridians Expect, has, from the very beginning of its existence, argued for separate travel lanes for all road users -- i.e., designated 5-foot bicycle lanes for bicyclists, sidewalks for pedestrians and vehicle lanes for motorists.
Bicyclists must recognize the difference between riding on a road with a designated 5-foot bicycle lane and riding on a road that has only a 3-foot paved shoulder.
SAFE believes that bicyclists should ride within the designated bicycle lane, except when there are obstacles in the lane, when passing another bicyclist if it is safe to do so, and when making a left turn.
On the other hand, where there is only a 3-foot paved shoulder, bicyclists should have the right to share the road and take the "lane" if it is not dangerous to do so.
Unfortunately, SAFE does not believe that all bicyclists will use designated bike lanes. Those who flout these lanes will be responsible for creating a backlash from motorists. They will ask, "Why build bicycle lanes for bicyclists if they don't use them?" How can anyone argue against that logic?
SAFE has fought hard for these lanes, so they should be used as intended.
Motorists should realize the benefit of bike lanes: not being inconvenienced by being stuck behind slower bicyclists. If bicyclists flout their designated lanes and pedal in vehicle lanes, drivers will have every right to be perturbed.
SAFE does not want to see public sentiment turned against the entire bicycle community. We believe that the only way of preventing that is with a new law discouraging bicyclists from riding on the road when there is a bike lane. This is in the best interest of the bicycle community. Safety is a two-way street.
Chairman of SAFE
Elmer "El" Parent
Parent is a member of Sarasota Manatee Bicycle Club, Florida Bicycle Association, Rails to Trails Conservancy and Manatee Friends of the Trails. He resides in Bradenton.