Tuesday, July 22, 2008


Bicyclists bug me. No, it's not because of the smug sense of self-importance they seem to get from getting places without buying gas (at the minor cost of arriving sweaty, dirty, and or soaked by the rain). Heck, I rarely deal with bicyclists once they've gotten somewhere. No, bicyclists bug me because I have to deal with them while they are en route. Bicyclists in Washington are, in theory, supposed to follow traffic laws. There are quite a few places with bike lanes to help them do this without interfering with traffic or being run over.

The problem is not with the bike lanes, but with the tendency of bicyclists to do as they please. Some will ride on the sidewalk in areas where there is a bike lane, some will switch back and forth between following vehicle and pedestrian laws, and some will ride the wrong way down a one-way street.

Occasionally, some news channel or newspaper will run a story about how many deaths and injuries result from "motorists not being aware of bicyclists." Conveniently, they forget that many of these bicyclists are darting from the sidewalk into the lanes of traffic, assuming that motorists will be willing and able to avoid hitting them. They won't see any problem with talking to the bicyclist who wants to tell them about how bicyclists follow the same traffic laws as motorists and should get the same respect and following it up with the story of someone riding across a crosswalk being hit by a car. With a straight face, the reporter will tell you that the driver should've been more aware, and they'll pretend that you didn't just hear that bicyclists need to follow the rules of the road.

Last year (or maybe a little longer--I can't remember for sure), one news team did actually address the issue of inexperienced bicyclists trying to use "fixies" (fixed-gear bikes), and thus causing themselves issues, including some injuries and a death. Considering some of the steep hills in Seattle and Western Washington, "fixies" are a bad idea unless you really know what you're doing (and, heck, if you know what you're doing, you should know to get a mountain bike).

That's the closest I've seen any news crew get to actually encouraging bicyclists to take responsibility for their own actions. Last I checked, motorcyclists are generally well aware that the others on the road are surrounded by steel and they are protected only by whatever they're wearing. As such, they are very careful. Bicyclists, being even less protected (they wear less protective gear and they don't have an engine to help them get ahead of the heavier vehicles), should probably think the same way, but they've all (well, a lot of them, anyway) let themselves believe it's everyone else's job to watch out for them.

Remember, being a free man means taking responsibility for your actions. If I dart into traffic, I should fully expect to be seriously hurt or killed, bicycle or not.


Hammer said...

I don't see many bicyclists anymore. I think they are all killed off.

Drew said...

Here in Washington, I don't think we'll ever be rid of bicyclists. I think they enjoy being a problem.