So this evening i came home from work and picked up the Courier, which the wife had thoughtfully left in my "spot" on the couch. When i read one of the readers' comments, i immediately thought "oh Zeus, here we go again" the same misinformation that continually get trotted out. So much for tonights ride, as i sat down to type my own comment to the original commenter (a Claremont resident). Since many of you do not read the Claremont Courier, may not even know that it exists (though you can check it out online) i have reprinted that original comment first, and my response further below:
Bicycle safety starts and ends with common sense
Claremont, with over 30 linear miles of bicycle infrastructure, is a haven for cycling enthusiasts. Cycling safety classes is a great idea for the young and uninitiated, as I’m sure Sam Pedroza would attest to.
Tom Shelly stated in the article on June 27 that most accidents are avoidable, if you use basic skills. He went on to say on a narrow rural road a cyclist should take control of the lane and force the cars to slow down.
Remember the words “common sense” in the title of this article? If you are a parent of someone taking a safety class from an individual suggesting you take control of the road from a car or truck, I suggest you look around for another class. First of all, cyclists are required to stay as far right as possible when going slower than traffic speed, but should also ride single-file for safety, especially in heavy traffic and on narrow roads. That is the law!
I agree that more often than not, motorists are going to avoid you, but telling riders to be assertive of your position on the road and you will be okay is not something I would like to be held responsible for telling students of a safety course, and I would never counsel my own child to adopt that mindset. It doesn’t sound like a common sense decision.
For example, in the article an 11-year-old was planning to ride his bike to school at the same time the motorists are late to work—texting, dropping off their own kids, applying makeup, etc. And you are counseling the child to own the road? Cyclists may be successful being assertive with autos most of the time, but it only takes once for your son or daughter to be wrong. It may not be worthwhile being assertive!
While cycling may be a sport to you, the roads are designed to move people and commerce. I believe motorists want to be accommodating to the sport of cycling, but I’m not sure the assertive mindset is a common-sense posture for cyclists.
By the way, I know the city of Los Angeles used highway funds to put in thousands of miles of bike lanes, I suspect Claremont did the same. If motorists are paying for the roads they deserve respectful, not assertive cyclists.
"A recent comment to the Courier is, unfortunately, full of misinformation and does nothing but perpetuate the incorrect beliefs of the non-bicycling public. Maybe what is needed is a comprehensive story about bicyclist rights. In the meantime - bicyclists are not required to ride as far to the right as possible, but must ride as far to the right as practicable (CVC20202). There is a world of difference between those two words. Many of the streets in Claremont, including those in the Village are not wide enough for a bicycle and motor vehicle to be operated side by side within a single lane. In those cases it is most certainly safer for a cyclist to "control the lane". I can't count the times I thought i was being courteous by moving to the right of a lane only to be passed within inches by a driver who could not be bothered to pass at a safe distance.
Riding single file: Believe it or not, a line of bicyclists riding single-file creates a greater passing "hazard" than does a group bunched together, as it requires a driver to stay safely wide for a longer distance. Laws and public safety do not always mesh as we would like to think they should, and there are many contributing factors determining when it is legal for a group to ride as a group, and when they must ride single file. Long time bicyclist and lawyer, Bob Mionske had this to say about the topic: "There is no statute in California that explicitly requires cyclists to ride single file. However, there is also no statute in California that explicitly permits cyclists to ride two or more abreast." Read more at BicycleLaw.com
As for road cost, well, I thought that was put to rest long ago. The cost of a few painted lines and symbols upon a roadway equate to a drop in a lake; only 34% of the cost of building and maintaining California's roadways comes from user fees, such as tolls and gas taxes. The remainder of the costs come from such sources as property taxes, sales taxes, and the general fund, all of which bicyclists contribute to. Thus even if a bicyclist does not own a car, nor drive one, he or she contributes to road construction and maintenance. Considering how many cyclists are on the road at any one time in comparison to the numbers of motor vehicles, and considering the comparative wear and tear of each mode of transport, bicyclists are overpaying by a wide margin, while drivers are grossly underpaying for the privilege. In 2011 the Mayor of Portland, Oregon, widely regarded as the nations premier bicycling city calculated that the city's entire network of bicycling infrastructure was constructed for the same cost as a single mile of freeway.
As for Tom Shelley and bicycle safety, I don't know Mr. Shelley nearly as well as I probably should, but apparently I know him better than some. His community involvement and the regard for him held by so many speaks for itself. I can think of very few people more qualified and responsible to teach a bicycle safety class than Mr. Shelley. Personally, I am convinced there is at least one person in Claremont who would benefit from taking a bicycle safety class from him."
My response was out of concern on multiple levels - first the misinformation, second the questioning of Tom Shelley's ability to teach a bicycle safety class, and third, that last sentence - with the amount of carnage that takes place on our public roadways I don't see any reason to "grant" a group of people respect. Safety trumps anything else, and until i see more concern for the safety of other road users, respect will have to wait.
Sometimes, with all the killing taking place on our roads, the hostility which seems to be increasing, i just can't let it go. What about you, would you ever give up a ride to respond to a letter to the editor? I have long believed that every bicyclist, whether or not they consider themselves one, is an activist. Beyond that though, are there other ways in which you involve yourself in bicycle transportation advocacy?