Tag Archive for traffic laws

Bike law change #3: Ban the “I just didn’t see him” excuse

It shouldn’t surprise anyone to learn that cyclists and drivers sometimes try to defy the laws of physics by occupying the same space at the same time. And when that happens, the driver usually blames the cyclist, or claims he just didn’t see the rider — and too often, gets away with it.

However, the law requires that drivers be alert and aware of the traffic conditions around them. Which means that they are required to see, and take notice of, any bicyclists that are visible on the road around them.

There are situations where riders can be hidden behind another vehicle, of course, or riding where they shouldn’t be, like in the driver’s blind spot or on the wrong side of the road. But in the vast majority of cases, there’s no reason why an alert driver shouldn’t be able to see any cyclist who might be sharing the road with them. And if you can see the driver, he or she should certainly be able to see you.

So let’s put the responsibility exactly where it belongs, and prohibit any use of the “I just didn’t see him” excuse, unless it can be clearly demonstrated that it wasn’t possible to see the rider under the existing conditions.

Bike law change #3: Ban the “I just didn’t see him” excuse

It shouldn’t surprise anyone to learn that cyclists and drivers sometimes try to defy the laws of physics by occupying the same space at the same time. And when that happens, the driver usually blames the cyclist, or claims he just didn’t see the rider — and too often, gets away with it.

However, the law requires that drivers be alert and aware of the traffic conditions around them. Which means that they are required to see, and take notice of, any bicyclists that are visible on the road around them.

There are situations where riders can be hidden behind another vehicle, of course, or riding where they shouldn’t be, like in the driver’s blind spot or on the wrong side of the road. But in the vast majority of cases, there’s no reason why an alert driver shouldn’t be able to see any cyclist who might be sharing the road with them. And if you can see the driver, he or she should certainly be able to see you.

So let’s put the responsibility exactly where it belongs, and prohibit any use of the “I just didn’t see him” excuse, unless it can be clearly demonstrated that it wasn’t possible to see the rider under the existing conditions.

Bike law change #3: Ban the “I just didn’t see him” excuse

It shouldn’t surprise anyone to learn that cyclists and drivers sometimes try to defy the laws of physics by occupying the same space at the same time. And when that happens, the driver usually blames the cyclist, or claims he just didn’t see the rider — and too often, gets away with it.

However, the law requires that drivers be alert and aware of the traffic conditions around them. Which means that they are required to see, and take notice of, any bicyclists that are visible on the road around them.

There are situations where riders can be hidden behind another vehicle, of course, or riding where they shouldn’t be, like in the driver’s blind spot or on the wrong side of the road. But in the vast majority of cases, there’s no reason why an alert driver shouldn’t be able to see any cyclist who might be sharing the road with them. And if you can see the driver, he or she should certainly be able to see you.

So let’s put the responsibility exactly where it belongs, and prohibit any use of the “I just didn’t see him” excuse, unless it can be clearly demonstrated that it wasn’t possible to see the rider under the existing conditions.

Bike law change #2: Prohibit turning into the path of an oncoming cyclist

One of the most dangerous situations any rider faces is when a driver passes on the left, then makes an immediate right turn. Or when a driver tries to make a left turn directly in front of an oncoming rider.

Most of the time they get away with it. And sometimes they don’t, resulting in a serious, often fatal, accident in which the rider smashes into the side of the turning vehicle.

The problem is that drivers often underestimate the speed of the bike, and think they’ve got time to complete the turn. Or they just drive too aggressively, and assume they have the skill to pull off an exceptionally risky move — or want to send a message by forcing the cyclist to panic stop in order to avoid them.

The only way to stop it, and protect the safety of cyclists, is to ban it entirely — and require that drivers wait until any oncoming rider passes before making their turn, whether right or left.

 

Bicycle Fixation observes we’re getting closer to genuine critical mass (lower case). The Utne Reader discovers conservative cyclists aren’t a myth after all, while conservative #1 plans to open the way for mountain bikes in the national parks. Now if he’d just restore their funding before he makes his ungraceful exit in January.

Bike law change #1: Require drivers to maintain a minimum passing distance of three feet

As it now stand, the law only requires that drivers pass a bicycle on the left, and maintain a safe distance without interfering with the safe operation of the bicycle.

But what does that mean in the real world? To some drivers, that means giving a cyclist as wide a berth as possible — for which we are eternally grateful.

Other drivers interpret that as any distance which allows them to pass a bike without actually hitting it. But they may not realize that getting caught in the slipstream of their vehicle can make us lose balance and possibly fall. Or that coming too close makes us instinctively swerve to the right, even if that means running off the roadway or into parked cars. And it’s always possible for a driver to misjudge the distance and actually sideswipe a rider.

So let’s take the guessing out it, and require a minimum of three feet distance when passing a bicycle. And make it clear that drivers are allowed to briefly cross lane or center dividers to pass safely.

The nail that stands out, pt. 2

 

Feel free to copy and use this image. Or make a better one, and I'll post it here.

Feel free to copy & use this image. Or make a better one, and I'll post it here.

After I put yesterday’s post online, I went out for a nice, long ride down the coast to Hermosa Beach, enjoying the ride, the sunshine and the bikinis. And those wearing them, of course.

But then, as I was nearing my home, I started kicking myself — mentally anyway; doing it physically would be kind of difficult with my feet locked into my pedals. And after 46 miles on the bike, I’m not sure I would have had the energy, anyway.

Because it occurred to me that in my response to Mr. Rowe’s letter to Rupert Murdoch’s latest acquisition, I failed to address a key point. Consider the penultimate line of his screed:

“…Bicycles should be required to have a fee-paid license plate and be ticketed for infractions….”

It’s a variation on the same old canard you’ll find on virtually any message board or letters column discussing cycling. Sooner or later, someone will suggest that all cyclists should a) have to study and pass a test, b) have a license, such as a driver’s license, c) have license plates, as Mr. Rowe suggests, and/or d) carry liability insurance.

The catch is, we already do.

You see, in today’s auto-centric society, most cyclists are also drivers. In fact, while I’m sure there must be some, I don’t personally know of a single cyclist over the age of 16 who does not have a driver’s license.

Which means that we have studied the rules of the road, so there is no excuse for any bicyclist not knowing the rules of the road — just as there is no excuse for any driver being unfamiliar with the traffic laws and regulations, including laws regarding cyclists’ right to the road.

We can also be ticketed, just like the operator of any other vehicle — legitimately or not. And while I have no personal knowledge of the subject, I would assume that any ticket received while cycling can result in points against the recipient’s driver’s license, under the provisions of section 21200 of the California Vehicle Code, just as they would for a driver who receives a similar citation.

And as I discovered when I was struck by a car several years ago, car insurance in this state covers the driver, not the vehicle — which means that the driver is covered when operating his or her car, or any other vehicle. Including a bicycle.

In fact, State Farm paid my entire medical bill under the uninsured driver section of my policy. And as my agent explained at the time, any other section of my policy — including liability coverage — would be equally valid, whether I was in my car, driving someone else’s car, or on my bike.

So the problem isn’t one of licensing or liability coverage. It’s just that some cyclists, like some drivers, are jerks. In fact, I’m convinced that people ride their bikes the same way they drive. If someone is a safe driver, he or she will undoubtedly be a safe cyclist, while those who drive like jerks will undoubtedly ride the same way. Just like drivers, they usually get away with it simply because there’s seldom anyone around to enforce the law.

And here in L.A., the cops usually have more important things to do than worry about whether a cyclist blew through a stop sign.

 

Will uses my new favorite word in an attempt to track down the indignorant Mr. Rowe, and sacrifices a chunk of flesh to a man-eating chainring. Next weekend’s Brentwood Gand Prix will reward competitors with a special prize for the Sex and the City crowdA lone cyclist takes to the freeway; as Richard Pryor would say, that _______’s crazy!  A town in Arkansas weighs becoming a LAB-approved bike friendly city. If only our own local cared that much; we’re still waiting for action on the Cyclists’ Bill of Rights.

 

Learning to ride safely. Or not.

Great post on the Gary Rides Bikes blog yesterday.

He wrote about repeatedly passing the same rider on a recent ride, since he was the faster rider but stopped for red lights, while she went through them but rode slower. So they kept leapfrogging one another.

It served as an example of the problem with so many riders who blatantly disregard the law — as well any semblance of common sense —  in an apparent rush to get where they’re going. And it struck a cord with me, because I’d been thinking much the same thing while I was riding today.

The problem, in a nutshell, is that so many riders learn to ride, and often, ride fast, without ever learning how to ride well.

Now, don’t get me wrong. I’m not a stickler for obeying the letter of the law. I think the highest obligation of cyclists is to ride safely — that is, without posing an unnecessary risk to themselves or the people around them. Sometimes that means observing the law, and sometimes that means breaking it. But for a damn good reason.

I got my first real road bike when I was living in Louisiana, and I quickly learned to ride fast and far, dodging pickup driving Cajuns along backcountry bayous. I continued to use the same skills when I moved back to Colorado, and found myself riding rural farm roads and high mountain passes.

But I didn’t become a good rider until I started riding at Denver’s Washington Park.

In those days, Wash Park was the center of the local biking community, and a mecca for cyclists all over the country. Riding there often meant riding with cycling royalty, like Connie Carpenter and Davis Phinney, and there were often rumors that Alexi Grewal or Greg LeMond might be somewhere in the vast crowd of riders, though I never saw them myself.

The big draw was a roadway that encircled the park, and was closed to car traffic Monday through Friday, providing a safe, traffic and red light free loop a couple miles long. Riders would start arriving in mid-afternoon; by 5 p.m., there were usually hundreds, and sometimes thousands, of riders circling in the same direction. Gradually, a peloton would form, as the slower riders dropped to the right, and the better riders grouped together and gained speed.

Anyone was welcome to join in, as long as you could keep up — and ride safely. Make a mistake, though, and you’d hear about from the other riders. Do it again, and you could expect a warning bump from a passing rider. Third offense meant a shoulder or hip check designed to knock you off your bike and on your ass.

The same rules held true on weekend group rides. If you wanted to do something stupid and risk you own life, go right ahead. There’d be no shortage of pall bearers at your funeral. But do something that endangered bystanders, risked the safety of the group or brought undue attention from law enforcement, and you could expect to pay the price.

It was a brutal way to learn. But I learned to ride safely. And I learned fast.

That sort of thing just doesn’t happen today. As many people have noted in other forums, there are no training procedures required for cycling, and the kind of education I received wouldn’t survive very long in today’s more litigious society — and probably shouldn’t. And experienced riders, such as myself, have learned the hard way that any attempt to educate another rider these days more likely to be met with a heartfelt “fuck you, asshole” than it is a polite “thank you.”

So new riders are left to learn on their own, for better or worse.

Which too often means they develop the physical skills to ride, without the knowledge that goes with it. They learn how to ride, and in many cases, to ride fast and far, just like I did. But they don’t have a clue how to ride safely.

Or courteously.

Especially in crowded, fast-paced and high-traffic city like Los Angeles.

 

Apparently, the conflict between drivers and cyclists isn’t limited by the Atlantic. A columnist in Colorado assures a driver that traffic laws apply to teenage cyclists, as well… but walking bikes across an intersection? Get real. Boston riders reveal it’s possible to look good on a bike, without resorting to spandex. And an Ohio man goes to jail for trashing his car after running down a cyclist on the sidewalk.

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