Hi all, I am on a car mailing list and a discussion has come up this week about cyclists because one of the guys on the list was hit by a car on his bicycle. The following is what one of the guys had to say about the situation. I thought you guys might be interested in reading this:
"We see a lot of traffic signs around here about bicycle riders on the road,
etc., but they will never do any good as long as folks on bicycles ride in the
middle of a traffic lane, sometimes two abreast, at speeds from 15 to 50 mph
below the posted speed limit. Given the number of vehicles on the road at
times, bicycle speeds are not compatible with traffic speeds on most county roads
and highways, and in many cases even on city streets.
You do have you right to ride a bicycle, but you don't have a right to delay
traffic, cause others to be late for appointments, extend travel times for the
majority, especially during peak travel hours such as "rush hour", which in
our case out here means folks going to work at approximately the posted speed
limit for 10- 30 miles from their homes, etc.
People can talk about their "rights" all day, but as with many things,
attempting to enforce these rights with aggressive behaviors can have consequences.
The probable result of Steve White's grabbing a driver by the throat through
an open vehicle window in KY would result in a fatal shooting by driver who
was attacked in his vehicle (his private domain) while carrying a licensed
firearm, and while I don't give legal opinions on anything, one would certainly
expect a "justifiable homicide by self defense" plea if he were even to have been
prosecuted. My suggestion in circumstances like that is to just either learn
to take it, adjust your travel patterns, or advise law enforcement. Violence
on the street only begets escalating violence, and the "rednecks", as some
have referred to them, in their pickup trucks are generally far better armed and
ready to defend themselves than bicycle riders.
The real solution to the problem is licensing and taxation of bicycles, (in
most jurisdictions bicycles do not pay for license plates and they certainly do
not pay gasoline taxes to contribute to road construction and maintenance)
just as is done with automobiles, with these funds utilized to construct bike
trails on the side of the highways to segregate bicycle traffic from real
traffic. I remember a traffic engineering course many years ago where they taught
that the way to set speed limits was to set out a traffic speed sensing device
and to set the speed limit between the 80th and 90th percentile of the traffic
speeds of the drivers. No politics, green or otherwise back then (which
probably ages me some), just simple engineering and safety.
One final point. While many bicycle riders seem to think that automobile
drivers are "out to get them" (Could this be a result of their own recognition of
the adverse effects upon traffic flow of their conveyances and the
frustration that they cause among automobile and truck operators?) when in fact they are
just difficult to see in many ambient conditions. I remember, once again many
years ago, taking a motorcycle safety course where they emphasized utilizing
a head/tail light at all times to increase visibility. Motorcycles have far
better lighting than most bicycles, and they also move at speeds consistent with
surrounding traffic, yet there are many car/truck-motorcycle accidents due to
their limited visibility. The dangers to bicycles are exponentially
increased in comparison to these motorcycles. Sometimes, despite what the bicycle
riders think, it is just a visibility problem and not the malice that is inferred.
The best solution, although perhaps not to the bicyclists liking, is for them
to stay out of rush hour or moderate and high speed traffic, stay as far to
the right as possible, utilizing road shoulders when possible, pull over and
stop when automotive traffic is building up behind you, ride in single file
only, and perhaps confine your rides to "bike paths" until your taxes can build
more suitable facilities for your use.
These practical solutions recognize several factors. First of all, you will
NEVER WIN in a collision with an automobile, pickup truck or 18-wheeler. That
is a simple application of the laws of physics and of nature. You can demand
rights, talk about your freedoms, complain until the cows come home, etc.,
but you do need to recognize that the driver of the average 3/4 ton pickup truck
may not even notice hitting you if he clips you with his rear end due to the
protective values of automotive structure. Secondly, committing assaultive
crimes against drivers for perceived insults and infractions can result in your
arrest at best, and serious injury from an altercation with an individual
exercising his rights of self-defense against your aggression if you are less
fortunate. Just because you may consider your cause to be just doesn't mean that
you will win in practical applications. Staying off of the highways and out of
the way of automotive traffic may be the most effective way of preventing
injury or death while cycling."