Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Bike Month Update Part 2

Scofflaw cyclists or skewed perspective?

In a letter to the editor published last week in the Savannah Morning News (scroll down to "Cyclists need road manners, too"), a motorist catalogs traffic infractions committed by a pair of cyclists. While at least one of his charges is valid — riding without lights at dusk is a very bad idea — it's a little hard to follow our narrator's account of having "experienced" two cyclists. They are accused first of traveling fast and then of riding slowly. Our motorist claims the cyclists were riding side by side (legal under state law) but then identifies one of them as the "front rider." Did he encounter them on Habersham Street or Kensington Drive? And how could they turn "into" Reynolds? As far as I can tell neither Habersham nor Kensington intersects Reynolds.

Contradictory and confusing information aside, our motorist's chief complaint seems to be that the cyclists were "backing up traffic" as he "patiently waited," prevented from "swinging around them" by oncoming traffic. What if we look at the scenario from a different angle? Maybe these cyclists were every bit the rude, reckless and irresponsible individuals they are portrayed to be, but how does this chain of events appear when not viewed through the windshield?

Could it be that the cyclists were taking the lane to prevent our motorist from endangering their lives? State law allows cyclists to move to the center of the lane when it is too narrow to share safely with a motor vehicle. Our motorist notes that one cyclist made an impolite hand gesture as he overtook them. Is that such a surprise? Would he not be upset if he was in the midst of a left turn when another motorist passed on his left?

But the real question is this: Has our motorist written similar letters to the editor chronicling the hazardous driving he witnesses on a daily basis? Surely he sees many more examples of reckless behavior perpetrated by other motorists. If he doesn't see them, then he's driving around with his eyes closed. What makes the cyclists more suitable targets of a scolding letter than the inattentive and aggressive drivers, who are much more common on local streets and represent a much greater danger to our motorist and other roadway users?

Finally, our motorist warns cyclists that "they are not going to fare as well as the vehicle they come in contact with." I've not met a single cyclist who thinks he or she is going to come out on top in a collision with a car. That's not to say that cyclists don't make bad decisions. It's just that they are not motivated by the belief that they will emerge unscathed from a car vs. bike crash. And really, which party should shoulder the most responsibility? Seems to me it should be the operator of the vehicle most likely to cause injury or death.

Another commuting first

My commute to work yesterday was unlike any I've ever made. From Victory Drive all the way to Huntington Street, I saw only a handful of cars and none of them were anywhere near me. I saw them way up in the distance, but I never shared the same block of Lincoln Street with them. However, I did see a dozen other cyclists. Of course I recognize that a lot of people had the day off because of the holiday, but it sure was nice to imagine what it would be like if cyclists outnumbered motorists every day.

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