Thursday, November 5, 2009

Two Wheel Trouble?

Two-wheel troublemaking: Have motorists let bicyclist 'rights' go too far?

Everytime this “writer” mentions cyclists rights, the word is always in quotes. I don't think he likes us very much.

For a decade, urban bicyclists have become more brash. In some cities, groups such as Critical Mass organized mass rush-hour bike rides that tied traffic in knots, delaying commuters rides' home by minutes or hours. They are hardly tactics that will win sympathy from drivers.

Well, that’s true. This may be how to influence people, but I don't suppose it's how to win friends.

In the aftermath and as their numbers have increased, cyclists have become emboldened to take over the road. That is, instead of riding to the right or on the shoulder, some are now riding in the center of the lane.

Taking the lane? Horrors!!

Two incidents underscore how they are putting themselves in danger. One incident involved a cyclist hit and killed by accident. The other case is a motorist who is alleged to have tried to make bicyclists crash into his car on purpose:

The writer is very concerned about the poor cyclists. That’s nice, isn’t it?

In the first case, a driver on the way to work struck a St. Mary's County, Md., bicyclist earlier this month and killed him, police told The Washington Post. The driver, a 20-year-old in her Honda Accord, told police she never saw the biker. But the accident might have been prevented if the 47-year-old bicyclist had been riding in the right, not in the dead center, of the lane, a major contributor to the accident.

Or course, the accident might also have been prevented in the 20-year-old driver had been paying attention to what was right in front of her.

In the second case, a Los Angeles doctor is on trial for allegedly slamming the brakes on his car to cause two bikers to run into him. They did, suffering bloody injuries. The doctor, Charles Christopher Thompson, was allegedly peeved over having to slow down for three bikers blocking his path, refusing to pull to the right and flipping him off as he passed. He is on trial for having pulled in front of them and, according to testimony, hitting the brakes so that bikes were sure to hit. One biker needed 90 stitches.

The doctor allegedly slammed on his brakes because he was allegedly peeved, but the cyclists didn’t allegedly refuse to pull to the right and didn’t allegedly flip him off? There’s certainly no bias in this writing, is there? What's the hippocratic oath say? First, do no harm.

By the way, that trial is now over. Thompson was convicted of six felonies: two counts each of assault with a deadly weapon and battery with serious bodily injury as well as reckless driving causing specified injury and mayhem. He was also convicted of misdemeanor reckless driving.

For a little perspective, Drive On sought out Jeff Peel, a program specialist heading the League of American Bicycle's campaign for Bicycle Friendly Communities. His contention is that the road is "not motorist space. It's people space." Bicyclists are road users, too, even if they travel at the fraction of the speed of a car. In fact, he says, that's good.

"The idea is you are slowing traffic, which may be frustrating to some motorists but making the road safer for everyone," Peel says. "Creating safer roadways and right-of-ways for all users sometimes requires taking space away from automobiles."

Taking space away from cars? Ouch.

Allegedly taking space away from cars.

When late to work, it pains a driver to slow down for a bunch of bicyclists hogging the roadway. In the past, you might have tried to steer around them. These days, they are right in front of the car.

Oh, my goodness, the poor driver. And those cyclists are hogging the roadway. Cars would never do that, now would they? Oh, dear, I guess the sarcasm meter is a little high today. Sorry about that.

It will be interesting to see how far this goes, whether bicyclists are allowed to stay in the middle of the highway. As the deaths mount, maybe it will become clear they need ride to the right.

Again, it’s all about the cyclists for this writer.

Okay, so perhaps I’ve been a bit sarcastic here, but is anyone else annoyed by the way this article was written? Or, for that matter, by my comments about this article? Let's be equal opportunity, after all.

You know, most drivers are not cyclists, but most cyclists are drivers. I’ve been in my car and late for work, but that isn’t the fault or the problem of the cyclist out on the road.

Cyclists aren’t always polite to the drivers of cars, which strikes me as unwise. If that driver gets ticked off and buzzes me or hits me, I’m going to feel it more than he will, so I’ll limit myself to a shake of the head at an annoying driver rather than a more emphatic gesture.

Still we can still ride, and that's all to the good.

See you on the road.


  1. I get so frustrated by articles like this. The attitude that motorists own the road and that the more vulnerable road users are just in the way drives me crazy. Even if I was late for something very important while driving in my car, I would still not want to risk killing someone on a bike just to get to my destination a few seconds faster. Seconds. It's not worth it. How do people not understand this? Seconds v. someone's life. Arg.

  2. This article comes from USA Today, and their cycling editor felt compelled to write in to VeloNews to say Don't think we're all like this here.