Better bike courtesy won’t keep cyclists alive

Note: there were too many important news items today to include in this morning’s post. Come back a little later this morning for news about AAA attacking bike and pedestrian funding, the Mayor calls for a bike friendlier Metro, cyclists urged to ride right at Critical Mass, and a Maryland driver runs over a deer who turned out to be a candidate for Senate.

………

Maybe he just doesn’t get it.

Or maybe we’re just not going to convince David Whiting that all the courtesy in the world won’t keep careless, dangerous or distracted drivers from running down even the most polite cyclists, pedestrians and yes, other drivers.

Whiting — the OC Register writer who wrote last week that the solution to the county’s one-a-month rate of bike deaths was for bike clubs to ride single file and stop running red lights and stop signs — now says the answer could be as simple as being more courteous to drivers.

Seriously.

Even though a failure to show the proper deferential politeness hasn’t been a factor in any of the deaths I’m aware of.

Don’t get me wrong. I’m a firm believer in roadway courtesy. I make a point of signaling, and often wave drivers across the intersection in front of me if there’s any question who has the right-of-way. And I do my best to let drivers behind me pass anytime it’s safe to do so.

But not just to be nice.

I’ve learned the hard way that there are few things more dangerous than having a frustrated, angry jerk stuck on your rear wheel. And I’d much rather signal my intentions or let someone else go first than risk any misunderstanding that could result in us both attempting to occupy the same space at the same time.

I’m also a big believer in obeying traffic laws, as well as avoiding unnecessary distractions while I ride. Not because it’s the right thing to do, but because it keeps me safer on the streets.

But let’s be honest. Bike courtesy wasn’t a factor when nine-year old Nicolas Vela was run over by a monster truck whose driver couldn’t see the little kid riding his bike across the crosswalk directly in front of him.

Nor did it come into play when Donald Murphy was run down by a woman high on prescription medications, who kept driving with his bike still stuck under her car. Or when Alan Earl Miller was killed by a truck that drifted off the roadway while he was riding on the shoulder.

And it certainly wasn’t a factor when a car veered off the road, killing Christy Kirkwood and injuring another rider.

So if Mr. Whiting or anyone else wants to start a campaign to increase courtesy on the streets, count me in. Though I do look forward to the companion campaign, in which drivers are urged to show more courtesy to other road users by passing safely, observing the speed limit, stopping for stop signs, signaling, sobering up before driving, and turning off their cell phones when they get behind the wheel.

But let’s not pretend for one minute that it has one damn thing to do with the tragic and completely unacceptable rate of cyclists killed on the streets of Orange County.

Because it doesn’t.

And pretending it does will only mean more deaths until we stop blaming the victims and address the real problems.

………

While we’re in Orange County, the OC Register reports that the senior cyclists cited for riding on the sidewalk — despite a sign saying it was legal to do just that and a cop who seemed to suggest they should— recently had their day in court.

And won.

Orange County Superior Court Commissioner Max DeLiema ruled in favor of the two-wheeled scofflaws, delivering a not guilty verdict for both.

“According to the Judge, since there is no signage that directs bicyclist to exit the sidewalk, then the interpretation of the law is that ‘riding your bicycle on the sidewalk’ is OK!” Leslie Smith told us by e-mail. “We have spent three days in court (one for my husband, Duane, to enter a plea of not guilty, one for me to enter a plea of not guilty, then today in court to testify)! Such a waste of taxpayer $$$….”

Now maybe Newport Beach should consider improving their signage.

And maybe the police should offer a well-deserved apology.

Thanks to David Bain for the link.

………

Enjoy the confluence of bikes and poetry on L.A.’s Eastside with the Spokes & Words Back to School Ride this Thursday. Flying Pigeon is featured on the Green Jobs California web site. KCRW discusses CicLAvia and biking in LA (no, not me); not surprisingly, the first comment is about how dangerous those darn bicyclists are. Riding a bike while towing a device for riding a bike in place. A Santa Monica council candidate talks local issues, including how to make the city bike friendlier. A look at the Whittier Greenway. San Diego area authorities opt for cheap sealant on a local $10 million bike bridge, which means it will be out of action for the next two weeks. A San Jose cyclist is killed in a apparent hit-and-run. Cyclo-cross comes to Las Vegas this week. Speaking of Vegas, Cyclelicious visits Interbike. An Oregon cyclist is killed trying to beat a train across a crossing. Two Portland cyclists are run down in rapid succession, apparently by the same possibly intentional hit-and-run driver. The New York law that allows cyclists to bring their bikes into their office buildings hasn’t worked as planned. Bicycling as a way of life to reclaim America’s streets. Construction begins on the London 2012 velodrome track. A Labor candidate for London mayor tries to out-bike BoJo. The IMBA joins with component manufacturers to improve European Mountain biking. A Kiwi mother is knocked cold by a hit-and-run cyclist.

Finally, the widow of a man killed by a cyclist last year in NYC gets an apology from the city’s DOT commissioner; no doubt she’s cleared her schedule for the next few weeks to apologize to the relatives of all the cyclists killed by drivers.

And happy World Car-Free Day, a holiday that will no doubt be little noticed on the streets of L.A.

2 comments

  1. Digital Dame says:

    It’s always so much easier to blame the victim than take responsibility for one’s own bad behavior. This guy is just too much, though. He clearly hasn’t done any research into what really happened in any of the cyclists’ deaths.

  2. Eric B says:

    To be fair, “situational awareness” is something we can all agree on. Just like we can all agree that I need to look out for cars even though they’ll likely be at fault.

    Whenever I’m on the road, I’m looking for other idiots. This doesn’t make them any less unsafe, but it at least stands a chance at making sure I’m not the one colliding with them.

    This article is much, much better than the last.

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