Another Look at Bicycles

With so many people becoming more health concious, the number of bicyclists is on the rise. More bike lanes are appearing nationwhile. Unfortunately, there have always been and will always be accidents between motor vehicles and bicycles and the bottom line is, a bicyclist is usually going to end up on the short end of the stick.

According to NHTSA’s Fatility Analysis Reporting System
698 bicyclists lost their lives in 2007. Of those, 146, or 20.9% were due to failure to yield right of way, 69 or 9.9%, improper crossing of roadway or intersection, 32 or 4.6% , operating without required equipment, and 49 or 7%, failure to obey (ex. signs, control devices, officers.

The SC Driver’s Handbook states that bicyclists have “the same rights and responsibilities” as users of motorized vehicles. That’s fair enough, but where does the responsibility part come in? (In all my years I’ve never seen a bicycle “pulled over.”) For example, I seldom see them use hand signals to let people know what they intend to do. I see them run stop signs, and make left turns in front of oncoming traffic. Entirely too often I see bicycles at night with no lights – riding in pitch dark with nothing to alert other people they are there besides wheel spoke reflectors.

Bicycles here do not have any kind of license tag to identiry the rider, making them pretty much anonymous, unlike other roadway users. If a rider could be identified, possibly face a ticket/fine for not abiding by laws, they may think more about their riding habits.

I think a pet peeve of many drivers is to be in a line of 10-15 cars behind a bicycle on a road with a 45 mph speed limit, unable to pass. Now, a motorized vehicle driver who is unable to keep up with the traffic flow is to pull over and allow faster traffic to pass – why does this not apply to bicycles?

Bicycles and cars/trucks have a lot in common. There are good drivers and bad drivers, courteous and rude drivers, careless and cautious drivers. When two cars crash, there is some protection – airbags and metal between but when a bicycle vs a car….. you’re talking nothing more than a helmet, if that, between a 2000+ pound pile of metal and a human being, not a good thing.

I am not bashing bicycles nor am I “against” them, in fact, I’ve logged my share of cycling miles over the years. My intent is to point out that maybe it’s time for transportation departments to take a closer look at what can be done to improve safety. For example, if a car driver breaks the law, they get a ticket, pay a fine and their insurance premium may increase. I’m not saying require ‘bicycle insurance’, but if careless bicyclists get smacked with a nice little fine, chances are they will think before they make the same mistake again.

Yeah, yeah, I know, courts are already overcrowded, law enforcement has enough to do, yadayadayada… We’re talking about human lives here.

If you ride, make yourself as visible as you can. Wear bright colors. Heck, put those reflective triangles you see on farm equipment on the front and back, stick one on your helmet. Most importantly, use good judgement. A bicycle doesn’t have much chance against a car so please don’t take risks.

My hopes are that if what I’ve said makes just one person stop and think I’ve done what I set out to do by writing this. And for anyone offended by what I’ve said – oh, so sorry – maybe you need to take a long hard look in the mirror and think about just why you were.

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