Tuesday, October 29, 2013

The Phantom...it's in there

After a great night of salmon and sunsets, this morning's commute was a nice one. A bit breezy, but warm and dry. Always good things there.

So, my wife sent me an article today that is pretty interesting in that it is the typical rhetoric that the anti-bike crowd tends to put forth. Check it out here.

I can't disagree with all of the author's points. Yes, there are some cyclists who are jerks and don't use common sense when riding the roads. Yes, there are groups of cyclists who refuse to let other road users pass. 

The same can be said of motorists. There are some who are jerks - the looky-loos in the rented RV traveling down the Seward Highway at 30 MPH and not pulling over to let others pass. We can find examples of bad behavior in any group.
Now, in the article the author states plainly that his step father, once able to pull around a group of cyclists, resorts to the same type of behavior that he so dislikes in the cyclists. 

Isn't that indicative of the very nature of the problems we see in general in our wonderful society? What ever happened to being the bigger person and leading by example? 

The article doesn't shed any new light on the topic at hand. Nor does it explore any of the myriad reasons that cyclists prefer to ride in the road and take the lane rather than riding the shoulder and conceding the roadway - let me tell you something, it is for safety reasons 9 times out of 10 rather than just cyclists trying to be jerks. 

By taking the lane it requires that if a car is going to over take, he does so in a safer manner. He's not going to pull into the oncoming lane if there is another car coming and he's not going to try to sneak around you as he would if you were on the shoulder. At least, that is the theory. 

When I ride on the road I take the center of the lane. When I hear a vehicle coming up behind me I will nudge over to the right, if the way is clear for him to pass. If not, I will stay in the center of the lane until it is clear for the car to overtake. Then I move over. 

Because I'm a couple hundred pounds and cars are a couple of thousand, I have to take all steps and precautions I can to ensure the following:
1) I am seen by all drivers
2) I am aware of my surroundings and ride in a manner that is safe for those surroundings
3) I yield right of way only when it is safe for me to do so
4) I obey traffic laws as practical and practicable and ride in a reasonable and predictable manner
5) Ride where my safety is most assured

I tend to think that the cyclists with whom the public has the most issue with are not those of us who ride cycle as transportation on a daily basis, but rather are those who ride as entertainment or exercise only - two pursuits that tend to be viewed as frivolous by many in our nation. Lord knows we could use a bit more exercise, but whatever.
No, transportation cyclists, I think, tend to be a bit more purposeful in their cycling. They ride to get from point A to point B, just like drivers drive. There will always be conflicts there, but I have to take some time to refute some of the claims that commenters to this article make: 

1) "OMG, where to start! The day some fool declared that bicycles have the same rights on the road as vehicles was the day this whole discussion came about. Let's see, vehicles and their owners: are registered, and pay for that registration; are licensed, have to pass a test to get the license, pay for the license renewal, demonstrate certain physical abilities to renew; have to pass a test demonstrating knowledge of the rules of the road; pay excise taxes on the purchase of fuel, tires, and vehicle; have to pay taxes when they renew their registration; are assessed 'points' for violations on any infractions of the law, and can lose the privilege of driving; have to carry insurance - both for themselves and to protect from others who are uninsured; and it goes on." 

--First of all Mr. or Mrs. Beenhereawhile, the argument that you attempt to make in your comment is predicated on a falsehood and willful ignorance of history. First off, public roadway systems throughout the world, let alone in the US, predates the automobile by thousands of years. Thousands. The bicycle has had road rights for longer than the car has been around. And before that, horses and pedestrians. I'm sure that when the bike first became the prefered mode of transport over the horse or walking that there were numerous similar arguments. 

You also build an argument on the assumption that someone who rides a bike does not have a driver's license. You also tend to overlook the fact that an officer of the law can, and is bound, to cite cyclists who break traffic laws on a public roadway just as they are bound to enforce the laws for drivers. So, when a cyclist rides on the roadway, he or she has a duty to adhere to the laws of the road as is practicable and practical. You state that "If a vehicle driver is moving at a speed of 10MPH or less than the posted speed limit they can be cited for not yielding right of way to others, have a host of laws they must obey, and are held to it by cops." First, I believe, I have not checked or verified the laws in all 50 states, but I do believe that the 10MPH under the speed limit law is generally used only for interstate traffic, which are roadways that bar cyclists from use to begin with, though some cyclists do indeed ride the interstate and in those cases that minimum speed is posted. The Alaska statute AS 28.35.140 does not mention a specific speed that would constitute obstruction, but rather a series of situations that can be deemed as obstruction. Each of these would be at the discretion of the officer.  Also, let's again keep in mind that police officers have the duty to enforce traffic laws for cyclists on the roadways as well as for motorists. If they choose not to, then that is a failure on their part. I can hear your retort - "but cyclists don't have licenses so how can an officer cite them?" Good point. There are challenges to citing a cyclist, but again, most cyclists are also drivers. 

Yes, drivers pay fuel taxes and excise taxes on tires, etc., but again, most cyclists are also drivers, thus pay the same taxes and fees. No, cyclists do not have to carry insurance, but when is the last time that a cyclist ran into your 3/4 ton pickup and did any damage? And if they do, they are held just as liable as if they were a driver, provided you as the driver file the appropriate police reports. You can then go after their homeowner's or renters insurance (in many cases) or place a lien in order to recoup damages. Insurance is not what dictates financial responsibility in the event of an accident - the causer of the accident is responsible for any financial restitution, insurance just makes that burden less for the responsible party. 

"Bicyclists, on the other hand: pay no taxes to contribute toward the upkeep of the surfaces they ride on; don't regularly ride on either side of the road - rather, whichever side they want to. (Compton says he rides 'facing traffic' but, legally, bicycles are supposed to travel 'with the flow of traffic) They take advantage of whatever rules they want (if it's even that) at intersections - sometimes crossing with pedestrians (okay, if they walk the bike across the crosswalk), sometimes going with traffic (If you're making a right-hand turn watch out for the bike in the extreme right-hand lane traveling straight across the intersection), and sometimes just blowing across the intersection like they owned it." Do I need to go there again? Cyclists pay the same taxes as everyone else in most instances. We pay sales tax, property taxes, gas taxes, and all kinds of other taxes that go to road upkeep. And just how much damage does a 30 pound bike with a 250 pound rider do to the roadway? Let me tell you. Not much. 

And yes, some cyclists do choose which laws to obey and when. Going back to my earlier statement - I will ride in such a manner as to ensure that I get home to my kids at the end of the day, even if that means going through a red light.  Why is it that so many people get their panties in a bunch about the fact that cyclists don't pay taxes that go for road maintenance? We do. Even I, who ride bike to work 100% of the time still pay taxes that go towards road maintenance. As Onermailliw1 states "I have no problem sharing the road, but if there is a bike path, use it instead. Realize that highway dollars are being spent(most comes from gas taxes, BTW) on you behalf when it could be utilized for road repair somewhere else. I too have been given the international hand jesture that says I'm #1 by a bicyclists riding side by side in the road. It's a 55 mph highway, you are on the losing end of this argument. Single file please. The part that really erked me was there was a newly paved bike path 50ft to the right."  

The thing is that most highway dollars do not come from gas taxes at all. Most come from property taxes and federal matching, and other sources. In fact, Alaska is 50th in terms of how much of our road funding comes from gas taxes. http://taxfoundation.org/article/gasoline-taxes-and-tolls-pay-only-third-state-local-road-spending

And this whole thing about bike trails. Another thing that comes up time and again. Hey, I love me some bike trail, but many times those trails are more dangerous than riding on the road when the trails have intersections with roadways so that drivers have two intersections to monitor for traffic rather than one. Also, trails don't go everywhere that we need to go.

See, I really just need to make sure I get home to this at the end of the day.

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