Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Not that anyone asked

But here's my opinion on the subject of bikes, cars, and something that should never have happened in the first place. Set yourselves down for a good long while as it'll probably take me that long to get it all out.

Bikes and cars, they're oil and water if you ask me. They're both liquid, movable, and have certain desirable properties, but if/when they get mixed up, you're going to have some problems. Ask anyone that's gotten some water inside an engine destined to be lubricated by oil and you'll see right away a little water doing damage goes a long way even when totally overrun by the quantity of oil. However, this doesn't mean I don't think the two can't coexist mostly peacefully. Here are some problems as I see them and seem to be echoed in a number of responses to articles published by the Register and other local media.

1) Bikes don't pay for the roads therefore they don't have the right to be there. The law grants us the right to be there. The same as it grants you the right to own guns. You say your tax dollars pay for the bike trails we eschew in order to ride the road. Our taxes also pay for a police department so why do you need a gun? It's your given right and you choose to exercise it, the same as we do. As a matter of fact, I exercise both of those rights and have begun to wonder if I should be exercising both at the same time for personal protection. Obviously that's a bit tongue in cheek, but when you feel like you might be the next target, the through does cross your mind.

Solution: I'm not against paying a licensing fee for my pleasure of riding on the road. Heck, we're "supposed" to pay a fee for riding on the RRVT even though its funded by taxpayer money. If it means that drivers see us as having paid our dues to use the roads, I'm just fine with it. I'd pay $20 or even $50 per year in hopes that it will buy me a bit more safety or at least recognition that I too pay for the right to be there. Sure, I'm paying more money for a right I all ready have, but then again, we do it every time we pay the gas tax to drive our vehicles as well. The only stipulation I'd have is that traffic enforcement treat us as an equal on the road at that point even though I realize that might be a bit far fetched.

2) Cyclists think they're above the law when it comes to obeying traffic laws. I've got to admit, I think the cagers (car drivers) have a valid point on this one. Until the law says we can legally roll stops signs/lights, not signal, roll through stopped traffic, and generally ride in a way that puts the least penalty upon our legs, then we're at fault. Arguing that drivers break the law just as much as we do is pretty lame and not going to get us anywhere. Its no different than your child saying he should get away with something because his buddy's parents let them do it. We have to be self policing. I can't even begin to throw the first stone, I roll through signs (sometimes) and generally do what I can to keep my momentum from being broken on the ride.

Solution: We have to police ourselves. We can't expect equal treatment under the law and blatantly disregard the ones that don't favor our sport. Sure, it sucks stopping and starting on a bike; especially if you're riding clipless. Taking your hands off the bars to signal a turn shouldn't be a big deal. If you don't like it and don't do it, be prepared to get a ticket. The bottom line, its our own personal choice to be out there and therefore we have to deal with the limitations that we have set out for ourselves and how the law treats those limitations. I'll be doing what I can to ride as closely as possible to the law as I can. Considering I'm an equal opportunity offender in a vehicle when it comes to speeding and such, I don't want to hear anyone chastising me if they see me breaking a law (unless of course you never break ANY yourself).

3) Bikes belong on "bike paths" and I (the taxpayer) paid for them so why don't you keep your butts on them. Sure we have bike paths, I even helped pay for them (as a taxpayer), and yes I love riding a nice stretch of black label when available. That being said, bike paths don't always go where we want and in some cases, neither do sidewalks. So, if we're left with no other options to get from point A to point B, either you (the taxpayer) cough up funds to pave a bike trail/sidewalk to everywhere I want to go or accept that I will be on the road with you. "Bike paths" are actually multi user paths that have to be shared with various other types of foot and human powered traffic. I can't remember how many times as a roller blader (snicker all you like), I was surprised and/or crashed due to a bike blasting past me at speed on the bike path. Even if they weren't riding very fast the speed differential could easily be close to 2:1. That's not much different than cars and bikes on most residential streets. You have to be prepared for whatever situation you come up on whether riding or driving. Might may be right in regards to who has the right of way, but that should also come with using that right responsibly.

Solution: This ties more into my first solution of being licensed to ride on the street. If you want to ride just paths and sidewalks, no license needed. If you want to avoid those hassles and ride where you need to, grab a license.

4) Bikers don't get equal treatment from law enforcement when it comes to accidents. While I can't say I've personally had to deal with this issue even though I was a victim of a right hook hit and run when I was younger, I think there is a lot of truth in this argument. To me, it seems like cyclists have about as much weight in enforcing penalties as a piece of property. I.E. you hit someones mailbox, cow, etc, you have to pay for the damages and might get a minor ticket, but you're not going to be charged with a felony unless you were drunk, impaired, or someone managed to tape you saying that you were going to run this guy down and kill him while he was riding his bike.

Solution: Treat our bikes as vehicles and us as the driver, no better, no worse. If someone hits us (accidentally or not), hurts us, and leaves the scene they'd get charged with a number of moving violations and possibly a felony or two. Accidents happen, I assume that responsibility every time I ride my bike. However, if someone appears to be blatantly trying to damage my person as in road rage, then there are additional penalties that need to be levelled.

5) Passing a group of cyclists sucks. No argument from me on that one. However, it seems cyclists hear that argument anytime we're in a group no matter if we're riding single file (paceline is too long to pass) or as a bunch on the road (I can't get around them). It seems we're damned if we do or don't here. But, if we have a right to take up the roadway however we see fit, whether it be over to the right shoulder or the full lane, passing isn't that difficult. I don't see it much different than having to wait for slow moving farm equipment or even tractor trailers from time to time.

Solution: The only solution to this is patience and adherence to the law. Pass in a passing zone when safe to do so. I can't recall the number of times I've wondered when a car is going to merge back into the pack on a TNWC ride as they try to pass on Morningstar drive. It's certainly much easier to plow us down than head on another driver. Partly for that reason, I'm usually pretty heads up about what cars are passing and where my nearest escape route is.

6) This guy on a bike was drunk and swerving all over the road. As long as I'm working on pissing off other cycling groups, I may as well hit the party guys/baggers as well. Luckily, I've only had to ever deal with a few drunk bikers on the road during my time behind that wheel. However, the last time, really changed my opinion. Someone obviously had spent too much time at the Cumming tap and road up the bike trail to the bar in Orilla. He wobbled out in front of our car (and others) using up both sides of the highway on his way from the bike path to the bar. Luckily, we all were watching for his drunk ass and slowed to nearly a stop until he could negotiate his way into their parking lot.

Solution: I don't know that a full on OWI is the answer as I believe those laws are meant to deal with people that show a greatly increased risk of harming people or property other than their own when driving impaired. However, I do think public intox or something along those lines should be used as a deterrent for riding on the roads while impaired. However, this should be applied to road riding only as I don't necessarily see a lot of difference between operating your bike while drunk on a bike path, than walking down the sidewalk while equally drunk. Unless you're being a public nuisance, you're just going to increase the amount of road rash you cause yourself when falling off the bike versus falling down while walking.

Yet, after all this verbiage and wordiness, I'm still drawn to a simple thought. There are too many people pissed off on every side of every issue that refuse to listen. We ALL have to find an equal ground and take responsibility for our own actions in EVERYTHING we do and we can't be selective about how we do it.

I'm riding tonight to show that I support my friends that have been injured. I'm riding tonight because I want people to see that we're people too. I'm riding tonight to show that cyclists can be responsible in their actions. I'm riding tonight because I want to ride my bike.

PS- Though I'm a numbers junky and would lover to see a huge influx of hits on my blog, I'm compelled to ask that if you wish to share this opinion with anyone, please copy and paste, but do not link to this post or my blog. With a decent amount of personal information on here, I'd rather not find myself fending of jerks and a-holes on either side of the argument lest I have to pull this post.

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