Saturday, October 17, 2009

Outlaw Bikers

Slate has an article about cyclists and traffic laws, what the author calls the gray area of law enforcement that lets me ride through intersections without heeding traffic signs and signals. Along the way the author touches on the uncertain position of bicycles on streets designed for motor vehicles. There's way more debate than I had thought about. I land somewhere in the middle, maybe more toward bike lanes and bike paths, but I am not unwilling to take my place in traffic when the situation calls for it.

In traffic I will use lanes as I need them, especially for left turns. I am scrupulous about following rules and, for the most part, I am doing so in circumstances where my slower speed does not hinder traffic flow. I recently figured out that I could use the 101 freeway west as a convenient connection for a bike route and have become proficient at making the left turn on to the entrance ramp,just like any car.

But I don't mind having bike lanes and I positively enjoy bike paths. Long bike paths, especially. The Chehalis Western Trail runs north-south for over 20 miles through Thurston County. It connects with the Olympia-Woodland Trail and makes all kinds of loops possible for me. Any time I can ride and not compete with vehicles is time when I can fully decompress and let the wind blow all the cobwebs from my brain.

Sooner or later, though, most every ride brings me back into traffic. I don't find cycling in traffic as intense as driving. Riding at 12 mph, my average speed, I have much more time to observe my surroundings and spot the driver who doesn't see me (I figure that's most of them.) I can stop on a dime, if need be. And since I am well aware that in any collision with a motor vehicle, I will likely be injured, I am extremely vigilant.

That's a long way of saying that I often use my own judgment regarding traffic laws. I'm no daredevil but I know my ability and the odds.



Anonymous Anonymous said...

Your post and article are right on. Citations should be issued to cyclists who disobey traffic laws the same way they are handed out to drivers. Running stop lights is not proper or cool, rolling thru a stop sign when clear or you arrive first at multi stop sign intersection should be OK. After all most cars don't come to a complete stop when stop sign is clear (just observe their wheels). Bike paths have there place but as the article points out they are expensive and give the public the impression that cyclists don't belong on streets. I ride roads all the time and follow the same comon sense procedures that any sensible cyclist/motor vehicle should observe. John Forrester's mantra is "cyclists fare best when they act as vehicles and are treated as vehicles by motorists".
Neil (Mark's brother)

5:06 PM  

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