Thursday Jul 10 2008
When it comes to tolerance, it’s a two-way street
By: ToLewis, Editor
We received many responses to my editorial two weeks back regarding the ongoing conflict between automobiles and bicyclists. For the most part, much of the feedback was positive, with most respondents agreeing that there is not enough tolerance from drivers when having to share the road with bicyclists. One reader, however, chose to play devil’s advocate and write back from the driver’s point of view. The reader, whose name we will not publish since we do not have permission, brought up some very important points that I feel deserve a second response. But before I respond, perhaps you, the reader, should read the words yourself: “For an answer to some of your biking problems, you and all riders may need to look within. I find bicycle riders make their own laws and rules. They take advantage of DMV or pedestrian laws or none of the above that are to their advantage sometimes within minutes. They run stop signs, ride in crosswalks, ride on sidewalks, in store fronts and many unsafe places for riders and pedestrians. They also ride on the white line in roadside bike lanes and appear to challenge automobile drivers to move over for a safe passing. I have driven on some narrow country roads to find the road closed for bike traffic. Finally, the state had a bike lane built on the Highway 80 freeway across the bypass. And what does the rider pay for all of this?” First off, bicyclists pay for roadwork and repair the same as anybody else – with their tax dollars. What the rider does not pay for is gasoline. However, I have to say I agree with many of the points this reader brings up, and that is: It is the responsibility of the bicyclist to obey laws just as it is the responsibility of the driver. While this most certainly does not apply to every cyclist and every driver, the tolerance has to go both ways if drivers and bicyclists are to share the roadways safely. It is true that many bicyclists do not adhere to the rules of the road once they get on a bike. This creates an unsafe situation for everybody. This became apparent to me in an almost frightening way when last weekend I was pulling out of a parking lot and came within inches of hitting a kid on a bike who was not riding with the flow of traffic. I understand how a bicyclist might think it is safer to ride against the flow of traffic so you can see the cars as they approach you. But the truth is the driver has less time to react if you are riding in opposite directions. The only thing you are going to see is the car coming right at you with virtually no time to move out of the way. Conversely, it is much safer (and the law) for cyclists to ride with the flow of traffic so that drivers can spot you better and have a better chance to react should something go wrong. It is much more important for the driver to see you than it is for you to see the driver. If cyclists and drivers could learn to respect each other on the roadways, adhere to the laws and allow room for each other on the road, we might make major steps to inspire someone to ride their bike to work, to the supermarket or the video store. This would help in creating a society that promotes health while creating less dependence on finite resources such as the oil that fuels our automobiles. Just food for thought.