Vail Daily letter: Road wars
August 9, 2010
Wow, I can’t believe all the negativity towards bicyclists in the opinions of late. It makes me feel like I’m back in Chicagoland again! Although I already wrote a brief response, Evette Curran’s letter published on Aug. 2 begs some additional fact checking.
First, virtually all those that ride seriously on the roadways (e.g., riding from Eagle to Edwards) already take a driving test (which includes a section on bicycle laws), have cars and pay all kinds of taxes. We are not talking about children taking these kinds of routes.
Every day that I choose to ride my bike to work and leave my car at home, I save wear and tear to the roadway, spew less exhaust into the atmosphere, conserve petroleum, reduce the traffic burden and keep an additional parking space available for someone else to use, so taxing me for such a pro-social behavior is stupid.
Second, I don’t believe there is one serious road biker out there that feels like they are competing with or going up against cars and trucks. Barring any mental health issues, I think most of us fully recognize that a bicyclist will always be on the short end of the stick in the event that there is contact with any car or truck.
I think it is fair to say that serious road bikers are, in fact, much more acutely aware of their surroundings than the average motorist and continuously consider the safety implications of their actions.
I fail to understand how bicyclists on the roadway put Evette’s life at increased risk. When you come upon any slow-moving vehicle — be it a horse, a horse-drawn wagon, tractor, or a bicycle (all of which have a right to use the roadways in Colorado) — your first course of action is to slow down and then only pass by going into the opposing lane when it is safe to do so.
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If there is oncoming traffic, you simply slow down and stay behind the slow-moving vehicle until you can get around safely. To suggest that one might blindly cross the middle line, or worse yet, cross into oncoming traffic displays a fundamental flaw as a motorist.
This type of “me first” attitude that is all too common in this country’s driving culture is what helps make driving such an incredibly dangerous activity.
Evette, take a look at some statistics before you make your far-fetched conclusion that bicyclists are endangering your life-you would be much better off worrying about the mechanical condition of other motorized vehicles, other drivers’ mental and physical capabilities, and you own actions as a driver.
Third, while it is true that many cyclists do not follow all the laws of the road and sometimes make poor decisions, this is also just as true of motorists. However, physics dictates that collisions involving an object with a mass of 200-250 pounds travelling at 15-30 mph are exponentially less destructive than an object with a mass of 2,000-10,000 pounds travelling at 35-75 mph.
Furthermore, because Colorado law has a long history of affirming the right of bicycles to use the roadways (see: http://colobikelaw.com), the roads in this state, have in fact, been designed and updated with this activity in mind.
Additionally, the Colorado Department of Transportation, which builds, maintains and repairs all roads in the state, fully supports bicycling as a means of transportation (see: http://www.coloradodot.info/programs/bikeped). While the ideal roadway design is not always feasible, the “Share the Road” type of signs that are increasingly common are quite intentionally directed toward those drivers that have attitudes similar to Evette’s.