Editorial: Mutual respect on road is necessary
In this space long ago, I wrote about how the drivers of cars and bicyclists were not sharing the road. The argument has run the gamut – from concern over a court case in which the rivalry was front and center to a man who admitted to unintentionally running down a girl on a bicycle.
The first, from years ago, had a jury that convicted a local driver of misdemeanor charges of endangerment and reckless driving after an incident when the bike rider he was following made him “frustrated and angry” because the bicycle was “taking up the whole lane and going too slow.”
The second, which happened in January 2015, involved a man who ended up later pleading guilty to manslaughter and one count of DUI in the woman’s death.
Fast-forward to today. Thankfully, we do not have another court case or charges; however, the problem remains. Cars, trucks, vans and motorcycles all have the right to be on the road. And, yes, bicycles have that right, too.
Sadly, a culture of disrespect – or one of “me first” – continues to the point that reports of road rage between the drivers of vehicles and bicyclists seem common. This often involves streets that do not have bicycle lanes and most of the complaints come from the drivers.
Reactions range from “Bikes should stay off the road and out of the way of cars,” to “Let’s create a culture of respect for cyclists where incidents do not occur.”
That culture of respect will not occur until both drivers of vehicles and people who ride bicycles commit to getting along with each other. A good place to start showing respect for each other is by, first, obeying the rules of the road that stipulate how each is supposed to behave when they encounter the other.
Recently I have, on two occasions, passed bicyclists who rode like they owned the road. State law says that a person riding a bicycle on a roadway (where there is no bike lane) or on a shoulder adjoining a roadway is granted all of the rights and is subject to all of the duties applicable to the driver of a vehicle.
Motorists need to acknowledge bicyclists’ road rights.
At the same time, bicyclists need to abide by what duties the law requires of them. The law says that a person riding a bicycle on a roadway at less than the normal speed of traffic shall ride as close as practicable to the right-hand curb or edge of the roadway. Further, the laws state that drivers overtaking or passing a bicycle traveling in the same direction shall leave a distance of at least three feet between them until the vehicle safely passes.
Motorists create their fair share of accidents and deserve consequences. Bicyclists with bad habits and disregard for motorists need consequences, as well.
But, a lot of angst and injuries – and even deaths – might not happen if motorists and bicyclists looked out for each other and decided to get along when they are on streets where they both have the right to be.