Friday, May 16, 2014

Cycling and Taking Chances

 Every spring, the debate about cyclists on the street heats up.   This year it was stirred by a column by Wendy Leighton in my local paper.  She proposes that the State's laws are flawed because of some dangerous incidents she recounts, such as "Last summer on Route 231, I was approaching a blind hill with a blind curve when a woman driving a station wagon appeared in my lane, setting the stage for a head-on collision. There was a lone bicyclist on her right. She was over-compensating for the flawed, 3-foot law..."

As one adept rebuttal noted,she never once considers the dangerous action of the vehicle to be the drivers fault, but blames the cyclist and suggests "all the driver of a vehicle has to do is treat the cyclist just as she would any other vehicle"

I weighed in on the debate as I see another side of the issue, which is drivers not giving space to cyclists.  According to State law in Maine requires vehicles to give 3ft  to runners and cyclists on the road (not a suggestion as Leighton says).  However, all too often vehicles are not giving that space and are instead coming extremely close to me as a runner and cyclist, often at high speeds.

I don't believe drivers are considering the consequences of what happens if they misjudge when they're trying to squeeze between me and oncoming traffic.   180 lbs versus 2+tons doesn't have a good outcome for me. 
Arguing against me (and still somehow making my point), a lone commenter "You can pound your fist on the table and demand three feet all day long. The next time you are sitting in your car, look right and attempt to accurately judge three feet. If you are in a car, now try to imagine doing this in a pickup truck, a one ton truck, now a tracker trailer truck."

In a recent article in Australia (where the author is experiencing similar issues), he notes " one seems to have a problem with changing lanes to go around a parked car." which is very accurate.  People go out wide to get around other vehicles and would would never consider driving past a parked car as close and fast they pass runners and cyclists.

While most drivers are respectful and give people space on the road, too many times people choose to cut it very close (like less than a foot close) rather than give me space or slow down for the few seconds which would allow them to safely pass me.   It's great to know that, for those drivers, the risk to my life isn't worth the 10 seconds they'd have to wait.   

Because of the news paper allows only paid subscribers to comment, much of the dialogue about this issue is in multiple letters to the editor. Below is a selection

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