Cyclists Should Be Treated Like Motorists

Summary

Try as they might the Urban Cycling Crowd is hell bent on trying to find some wiggle room where their misbehavior on the road is concerned. I drove behind one fellow and a friend of his on their way to a recent Chicago Critical Mass. I recognized his face and was all too familiar with the kind of riding cyclists in Chicago do when they are conditioned to run stop signs and red lights. Amy Schmitt writes:

Bikes and cars are different, says Shaun Jacobsen at Transitized, and should be treated accordingly.

This is the blather that cyclists of this ilk love to spout. Always but always looking for a way to justify the fact that they simply do no wish to stop in obedience to traffic controls. I am guessing that most of this same crowd has never been to Idaho but it must be the home of some patron saint of the scofflaw cyclist since its name gets invoked every time they wish to let you know that at least one place in America provides the kind of cover they seek.

But luckily there is no longer any room for hiding behind the notion that bicycles do not kill, only cars do. That lie has been addressed once and for all and the fellow who was found guilty of manslaughter has to live with that on his record. Amy goes on to write:

Shaun Jacobsen at Network blog Transitized has given it some thought, and he thinks cyclists are a lot more like pedestrians in some important ways, though planners in the U.S. more often tend to lump them in with cars.

Bikes are now normally given the same green cycle as cars and are expected to comply. Sometimes, pedestrians are given a “leading interval,” giving pedestrians a head start. People on bikes have heightened senses of their surroundings since they are standing upright and have full, unobstructed view of their surroundings — like pedestrians — and should be permitted to use the leading pedestrian interval as their “go,” or deserve their own traffic signal at intersections.

Bikes are also expected to comply with stop signs (except in Idaho) by coming to a full stop. However, pedestrians don’t have to stop completely at a stop sign when they want to cross the road. They can see all around them and hear oncoming cars, and are better-suited to make the decision whether it is safe to cross. A runner that can see along the street they are trying to cross should not be legally forced to stop if it is safe to proceed without crossing. Similarly, a person on a bike should not be forced to stop themselves to proceed through a completely safe intersection, since people on bikes have situational awareness at a level closer to a pedestrian.

Too often, bikes are placed in the “car” infrastructure category and given the treatments engineers designed for cars — leading to unsafe conditions reserved only for the most confident bike riders. It is time that engineers and planners stop planning bike infrastructure and routes as if cars were using it.

In related posts on the Network today, Reno Rambler reviews an article aimed at educating law enforcement officers on bike laws, and the Green Lane Projectwonders if there should be more emphasis on making cyclists feel comfortable, rather than just safe. Also: Rebuilding Place in the Urban Space comments on a trend among public service providers, like libraries, that are conducting outreach on bikes.

Could these revolutionize transit? (Photo: Roll Over America/Maarten Heckman)

Could these revolutionize transit? (Photo: Roll Over America/Maarten Heckman)

Folks the facts are these. Bicycles are far more like automobiles and other motorized vehicles than anything resembling a pedestrian. These are vehicles which powered by a single individual or moderate ability can cruise at speeds approaching 35 MPH. To put that into perspective you would have to be a Tour de France participant riding with your team mates during a team time trial to go as fast.

They have headlights, some have turn signals and others even are enclosed for all weather travel. Vehicles like this are car-like enough in their appearance to confuse police officers when ridden on pathways that are reserved for human powered vehicles (which they are). Open up these babies and you might find a luggage compartment and that it is equipped with hydraulic brakes to provide sufficient stopping power when brought to a stop following a fast run. And yet they are pedaled by a person in the same fashion as an upright. The difference is the degree of aerodynamic efficiency. But even a good time trial bike is capable of attaining speeds in the upper 20s which during a collision with a pedestrian could mean certain death for that individual.

Bikes are a serious means of transportation that can achieve lethal speeds. There is no reason to try to weasel out of obeying traffic laws just so that you can save a few seconds on your way to a drinking binge with your fellow Critical Mass Riders.

Enough of the nonsense. We are not stupid and neither should you be.

Cyclists Should Be Treated Like Motorists

Cyclists Should Be Treated Like Motorists