Friday, August 29, 2014

Share the Road, not the Lane - Part 3

I got started on this subject as a result of several incidents that happened last month.  As a prolific cyclist, I generally will see interactions that are less than optimum between cyclists and motorists on a weekly basis.

Me and My Ford Ranger
See, I don't always wear my Stretchy Pants &
I do drive a Motor Vehicle
Keep in mine, I am a motorist too!. So I do see both ends of this, and I do not think that more bike lanes or bike trails are the answer as some times this only seems to escalate the conflict while diminishing the safety all at the tax payers expense.  I have had motorists express that they feel that bike lanes are a waste of their tax dollars as they have no intention of ever using them. 
I would like to point out that I could say the same thing about school systems for the same reason,,, but I do agree that bike lanes are a waste of money here in Indiana because we already have laws in place that make them unnecessary - but that will be the subject of another blog.

I would like to point out that my groups ride primarily in rural areas (We do frequently have to ride out of more populated areas to get to less traveled parts of the country.  This is mostly due to parking issues) Incidents with motorists (i.e people yelling at us to get on the sidewalk - not legal or safe in most municipalities - swerving at us, laying on the horn, waving at us with one finger, etc.... ) tend to happen no matter where we are and are in the minority.  But that does not excuse the behavior of that lower crust of society, particularly when it occasionally puts my riders in danger. Surprisingly a lot of Motorcyclists seem to be in this group.  Many people don't seem to realize that all of us on "bicycles" in our tight clothing also drive cars and some of us ride motorcycles as well.

Todays subject is unsafe behaviors by motor vehicles.  One of the unsafe behaviors that we frequently observe is passing when it is not safe to pass.  For example on blind curves, double yellow lines, with vehicles approaching (I particularly do not want to share the lane when the passing vehicle is having to negotiate both myself and oncoming traffic - formula for me to get hurt)

Just last week, I had a young driver (whose father obviously was instructing) pass me on a double yellow (it was a safe enough area, but he cut in before he was clear of me and nearly took me down)  Way to go dad!

The following incident happened last month to a friend of mine on a rural road out near Coatsville, IN (you can see the area in question on google maps at )
"On July 13th at approximately 7:30 pm, my 10 year old son and & I were riding our bikes on a county road.  This is locally known as Heritage Lake Drive in the Heritage Lake Community in Coatesville, Indiana.  This particular drive is 8 miles long and is a no passing zone.  We were riding single file when a car approached from behind travelling approximately 25 mph.  The speed limit on this road is 35 mph.  There was a car approaching from the front when the car behind decided to pass my son & I.  The car towards the front was forced off the road by the car passing us.  The car passed us with less than a foot of clearance.  We were on our way to pick up my van from a mechanic who lives nearby and relayed the incident.  Both he and his wife pointed out the house where the vehicle that illegally passed us belongs. 

We attempted to call the non-emergency line at the Putnam County Sherriff’s Department, which went unanswered.  The next day during normal business hours, I again called the non-emergency line.  I was told that I needed to call the Property Owners Association office to report the incident.  When I persisted to try to report the incident, I was directed to call the Putnam County Sherriff’s dispatch line.  I called the dispatch line and reported the incident.  The dispatcher who answered the call asked if there was any property damage.  There was no property damage to my knowledge, so the dispatcher explained to me that there technically was no “incident”.  I then asked the dispatcher what my rights were when riding my bike in Putnam County.  At that point, the dispatcher asked for my name & phone number so he could have a deputy return my call regarding the incident.  I did end up calling the Property Owner’s Association office and they made note of the incident and told me that they would make the property manager aware of what occurred. 

At our Property Owner’s Association Board meeting, my wife explained the situation to a deputy who works security at the lake.  My wife was told that if an officer did not see the incident, no incident occurred.  We have recently had several acts of vandalism at the lake (egging, ringing doorbells at 2 AM, and mailboxes being destroyed) that were not observed by the police, but are still being investigated.  The police officer also indicated that in her personal opinion, she did not feel that it was “safe” for a 10 year old to ride his bicycle on Heritage Lake Drive.  My son rides responsibly, with his helmet, and has participated in many group rides on roads that are 50 mph and more frequently travelled than Heritage Lake Drive."
I am very disappointed in a number of things that happened here.
  1.  The lack of interest/response by law enforcement - they could have at least pretended that they cared - they could have at least given the alleged offender a strong talking to or lacking that gumption, sent him a strongly worded email.
  2. The fact that law enforcement in this case seemed more concerned with property damage than a threat to life a limb
  3. This particular deputy's obvious disregard of the fact that the "10 year old" was supervised by an adult and the fact that Father and Son were acting safely within the law, while the motorist in question was doing neither. I could make the case that it is not safe for a 10 year old to be riding in a care on "Heritage Lake Drive" when there is the risk of being run off the road by oncoming traffic.  Seriously? This woman works security for this community? Again, at least act like you care instead of trying to ignore the issue and put in lame opinions.
After all of that is said, I do see plenty of Cyclists who do not ride safely as well. Here are some common transgressions I observe
  • Riding the wrong direction as if you are a pedestrian.  This is extremely unsafe as walkers and runners can easily step off the road as a car approaches, but especially when there is a curb, this is not practical for a cyclist, it is a very dangerous practice and illegal.
  • Running stop signs, I understand the urge to roll a stop sign and conserve momentumm, but we are doing this for fitness as well as fun so at least put your foot down. I see plenty of cars roll stop signs as well but that does not make it safe.
  • Riding unpredictably in general.  I see cyclists riding around bike trails (not on but in the street on the wrong side looking like they are going to get on a trail only to swerve away at the last instant! What's up with that?
I will be addressing safe riding in some future installments, but my opinion is that the majority of cyclists who are hurt and killed is a result of the above. (plus not wearing helmets) I believe this group to typically be low mileage cyclists with little to no group experience.

In my opinion, cyclists who ride safely and are extra alert for faux paux by motor vehicles avoid a lot of grief, but can only account so much for their safety when motor vehicles pull dangerous and illegal stunts.

What is the answer to all this? Education!

Put the effort into educating motorists and cyclists alike as to what is legal and acceptable behavior and I believe we will not only have safer highways for cyclists but for everyone who uses them.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration encourages all road users, including motorists and bicyclists, to respect each other and foster a safer transportation environment. Bicycles on the roadway are, by law, vehicles with the same rights, and responsibilities as motorized vehicles.

Be nice to each other :)

Until next time,

Happy trails and safe riding!


coming up
 - Why greenway trails and bike lanes are not the answer in my next segment
-  What is average?
-  3 for 3 don'ts
and much more

Got a topic you have questions about, send me a message or post in comments and I will do my best to give you a solid answer

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