Friday, February 12, 2010

Bikes, Cars, and The Road

I've never formally met Randy Mason (known to many through the eyes of DC as "BGR"), we traded a couple emails back when I thought I could ride my fat ass across the country. He seemed like a good dude, and based on some actions back in May he certainly knew how to ruffle some feathers. Anyway, back in January while riding his bike in Flagstaff, a bus failed to observe the three foot law (in AZ, a car must provide a three foot buffer when passing a cyclist), while passing him. Randy confronted the driver, who told him he should have been riding in the bike lane. The kicker was that due to all of the snow that had fallen in Flagstaff, the bike lanes had been filled with all the snow from the roads.

Anyway Randy took the matter into his own hands, had to deal with the police and city councit, and used the wonderful world of DrunkCyclist to go bring this issue to the public. Sure he has pissed some people off, and I would be willing to bet that there were times during this whole ordeal where he would not have been considered "calm and collective." But on the upside it looks like the City of Flagstaff will now be requiring all of the their police officers to have a full understanding of the cycling laws, and other changes might be made that can result in fewer accidents. The links below should provide close to full coverage of the incident, if you have the time I would suggest checking it out, it's worth it. Good work Randy, for not just letting what happened to you fall on the wayside, but fighting for what is right, and your safety more importantly.

Ride a bike on the road long enough in an area where there are automobiles, and you are bound to have a couple close calls with passing automobiles. If you are one of the unlucky ones, eventually you might even wind up being involved in a full-on collision with a car. This is not true just for the bike-car scenario, but also the car-car scenario, drive a car long enough, and you'll probably wind up in an accident. The difference being is that it's not difficult to pick the loser of a 170 pound person versus a 2000 pound car battle. I've ridden in a variety of different cities/towns/small towns that range from Tucson, AZ to Glenn, MT, to Basking Ridge, NJ. You name the driver stereotype, they have passed me; soccer mom, cranky rancher, in a hurry business exec, Good Food Store employee, and stupid college kids. In each locations there have been times I've been passed where my heart skipped a beat, and after regaining my composure I was trying to chase down the driver to give them an earfull about their shitty driving skills. There have also been times in those same locations where drivers seem to have gone out of their way to give me ample room while passing, and it makes me think that sharing the road is possible.

Don't get me wrong here, I am no saint while riding my bike on the road. I can drift out of the bike lane more often than I should, and I might neglect a stop sign here or there (especially when it is cold and I need to get to a bathroom), but I don't think my riding has ever endangered the safety of people in a passing automobile. It's odd thinking that according to the law bicycles have the same rights as cars on the road, and are subject to the same laws (hence why you can receive a DUI while on a bicycle, and can get a ticket for not having the proper lights on your bike after dark). Despite all this in my eyes (which are slightly biased) it seems like more often than not the cyclist gets the short end of the stick. I'm still pissed off that in Missoula you cannot use a cell phone while on a bike, but you can while driving a car. Remember equal rights equal responsibilities, make it all illegal, or all legal.

I was happy to read this article fresh out the Missoulain the other day, maybe cyclists as a whole just need to get a 7 year old girl to do all of their lobbying. Bike lanes are great, especially when they are wide and kept clean, but I think the underlying problem is both motorists and cyclists knowledge of the laws. Motorists need to know if there is something like a three foot law on the books, cyclists need to know when it is okay to use a car lane, and everyone needs to know that some courtesy goes a long way. How about motorists and cyclists spend some time together to re-educate themselves about the rules of the road, and trying to understand the complaints about the other group directed towards them. It's been about 2.5 years since I was hit by a car, my neck makes all sorts of odd noises, and it was because a motorist had no idea that they were required to yield to me when making a left turn. Yeah it could have been much worse, but spending the morning in a hospital sucks no matter the circumstances. Enough of this rambling, got one more photo from the actual SSUSA race. It ain't often I have visual evidence of myself passing a current national champion on a climb, but here it is, for a few moments I will cherish for the rest of my life, I put Fuzzy in the pain cave.

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