Sharing the road requires mutual respect
September 26, 2005
It’s just like any game, sport, unresolved rivalry or demographic among a large group of people. There’s always a few that ruin it for everyone.I am lucky in that, as I cyclist, I have no severe tales of near death suffered from the recklessness and misguided rage of the few motorists who feel it their duty to harass anything sharing their path that happens to have no engine and two wheels.I have had, however, a few unpleasant run-ins with drivers. While these drivers didn’t seem so much to have vendettas against cyclists, they still didn’t appear to regard me as a lawful and rightful user of the road. There is a very small handful of motorists among the millions in America that might find it fun to flaunt the fact that their sturdy, fast-moving pieces of metal can crumble our vulnerable and comparably frail pieces of metal in the same manner by which evil children can squish grasshoppers. Still, I’d like to think that most drivers who run cyclists off of the road and treat them as having something less than the same rights as other vehicles do so accidentally. As we all know, there are just some bad drivers out there.In the same vein, there are also bad cyclists. Those cyclists who ride three and four abreast along two-way roads – either oblivious to or dismissive of motorists – make it an unnecessary battle for the rest of us. A small handful of cyclists can be just as desrespectul as their engine-bearing counterparts.A couple of weeks ago I was cycling to Avon from Vail on Highway 6. I never try to emphasize my right to share the right lane with traffic (although, per Colorado law, I do have that right on roads such as Highway 6). No, I am somebody who tries to stay as far as I can to the right of the shoulder. And, in those places where there is no shoulder – like several long and familiar stretches of Highway 6 – you’ll find me riding that white line like a trapeze. I am terrified of motor traffic. Anyway, the stretch of highway between Kayak Crossing and Avon, the stretch where no recreational path exists, has a shoulder. Although, due to some construction along this area over the past couple of months, parts of that shoulder are filled with rocks, gravel, construction cones and other obstacles. So there I was, zipping along the trapeze line heading west at about 20 mph, when a large construction truck came along in the eastbound lane, not signaling a left turn, but showing every sign he was aiming to turn left. As I was the only approaching vehicle in the westbound lane, apparently this guy didn’t think me significant enough to treat as oncoming traffic. He began his left turn directly into my immediate path. As I stared him square in the face and began screaming, slowing as much as I could (bikes don’t stop on a dime any better than cars), the guy stopped and started shouting out his window. As my far-too-active imagination was dishing forth images of myself splattered onto his grill, I shakily continued on my way instead of engaging in a screaming match with him.
Roundabouts, as we’ve all seen from the occasional vehicle who unwittingly putters through them the wrong way, add another twist to road-sharing for those of us in Vail and Avon. Because cyclists are subject to the same laws as motorists and have the same rights, when they are taking their turn through a roundabout, other vehicles should not see it as an opportunity to gun into the circle. Doing so with another motorist would result in a collision. Cyclists, in turn, should signal and stay to the right, as they would on any other part of the road. It’s not complicated. As to sharing the road in general, it requires a bit of extra caution when dealing with journeys along roads like Highway 6, which we’re going to have to share as-is until the designated movers and shakers find the means to expand it. So, with these gorgeous days of fall left for us to enjoy driving or cycling through the valley, let’s all try to obey the rules of the road and respect other vehicles.Sports Writer Shauna Farnell can be reached at 949-0555, ext. 610, or firstname.lastname@example.org. Colorado Cycling Rules (updated July 2005, as transcribed by Bicycle Colorado)– Bicyclists have all the rights and duties applicable to the driver of any other vehicle and can be penalized for violating traffic laws.
— Always wear a helmet.– Ride on the right, never ride against traffic.– Ride in the right lane, except when passing another vehicle, preparing for a left turn or avoiding hazards.– Ride on paved shoulders and bike lanes when present and free of hazards.– Ride no more than two abreast, returning to single file when cars are passing. — On curving canyon roads, play it safe and ride single file.– Obey traffic laws, signs and signals.
— Use hand signals to indicate left or right turns, slowing or stopping.– Use a headlight, taillight and reflectors at night.– Make eye contact with drivers.– Never assume motorists see you or that you have the right of way. — Expect the unexpected; your first responsibility is to be safe.Vail, Colorado
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