I am now going to write on something that I have been passionate about for quite a while: biking. Not “bikes” as in motorcycles but the bicycle. I live in God’s Country, in the great state of Colorado. Many people who reside here (and probably some tourists) regularly put rubber to the road (or trail) and take their bikes out for either exercise or leisure (I will henceforth refer to such people as cyclists). That’s great isn’t it? A healthy way to get rid of your spare-tire of a stomach and enjoy the beautiful outdoors! There is nothing at all wrong with doing this. There is, however, a problem with the method in which some cyclists employ their exercise.
Colorado has many mountain roads. The majority of these roads that were carved out by many hardworking men (and I’ll be fair and say women) lack a feature that is very common with other roads that lie on flatter ground; mountain roads don’t have shoulders (or aprons or whatever those things are called). This can be very difficult for a non-Coloradoan to handle. There are many hair-pin turning, palm-sweating, white-knuckled, 6% down-grade roads that run through the glorious Rocky Mountain range of Colorado.
Imagine meandering down one of the above mentioned high mountain roads and thinking of ways not to plummet off the edge into the void below. You come up to a rise and there in the side of the shoulder-less road is a lonely cyclist. What do you do? If you obey the unspoken “3 foot rule” and partially veer into the other lane of on-coming traffic, you put your life and others in jeopardy. Because of the lack of a shoulder on the road, you must remain behind the cyclist until a more opportune time opens up for you to enter the on-coming traffic lane and pass.
A law was recently added to the Colorado Revised Statutes about the rights of a cyclist when riding on the road. In CRS 42-4-1412, the state legislature said that every person riding a bicycle will have the same rights as the driver of any other vehicle. What that essentially does is places the same responsibility of motor vehicle drivers on the shoulders of cyclists. It’s also saying that a driver of a motor vehicle should treat a cyclist just like another motor vehicle.
In my way of thinking whoever brought this legislation into law had their head screwed on wrong. In no way should a cyclist be equated to a motor vehicle. The top speed of a bicycle would probably be around 35 mph (and that is going down-hill) while motor vehicles drive up to 55 mph with the average posted speed limit. To me, a cyclist should be viewed as a pedestrian. That’s what they essentially are right? They’re just a little bit faster.
In order for a person to operate a motor vehicle, they have to be licensed by their state. A driver’s license must be renewed every five years. This includes waiting in long lines at the DMV to lie about your weight and have your picture taken. The vehicle in which they drive in must also be insured and registered with a particular state. There are annual fees associated with vehicle registration too. So a driver’s license, vehicle insurance and registration gives the driver the right to operate on the open roads.
Now take the cyclist/pedestrian. They don’t have to have any kind of insurance (unless Obama-care goes through, but that’s another story!). They don’t have to register their bicycle through the state or have a driver’s license. All they have to do is purchase their bike and they’re good. So I don’t see anywhere in that comparison that gives the cyclist equal rights with the driver of a motor vehicle.
Ever heard the term “Share the Road”? It means that motor vehicles should equally share the road with cyclists. Not only do I think this line is a load of crap but it is also faulty logic. Here’s another term: “Right of Way”. Vehicles often come into conflict with other vehicles and pedestrians because their intended courses of travel intersect, and thus interfere with each other’s routes. The general principle that establishes who has the right to go first is called “right of way”, or “priority”. It establishes who has the right to use the conflicting part of the road and who has to wait until the other does so.
Signs, signals, markings and other features are often used to make priority explicit. Some signs, such as the stop sign, are nearly universal. When there are no signs or markings, different rules are observed depending on the location. These default priority rules differ between countries, and may even vary within countries. Trends toward uniformity are exemplified at an international level by the Vienna Convention on Road Signs and Signals, which prescribes standardized traffic control devices (signs, signals, and markings) for establishing the right of way where necessary.
Crosswalks (or pedestrian crossings) are common in populated areas, and may indicate that pedestrians have priority over vehicular traffic. Like in Colorado, pedestrians always have the right of way in a crosswalk. Pedestrian crossings may be located near other traffic control devices; if they are not also regulated in some way, vehicles must give priority to them when in use. Traffic on a public road usually has priority over other traffic such as traffic emerging from private access; rail crossings and drawbridges are typical exceptions.
The faulty logic of sharing the road comes in when comparing a cyclist to a motor vehicle. Take, for instance, a railroad crossing. No matter what time of day (or night) it is, a train always has the right of way. Have you ever seen a two mile long train stop for a car? No. Why? Because the train is bigger than the car. In the same way, a motor vehicle is bigger than a cyclist (except for those ridiculous Smart cars). So, in the same way, the cyclist should always yield the right of way to the motorist. It’s plain and simple.
The whole point I’m trying to make here is that cyclists do not belong roads where there is no shoulder. It is a noble idea to exercise. I take my hat off to those who want to get in better shape. Just please don’t be stupid and ride your bike on a shoulder-less road! Leave those roads to licensed and insured drivers!
This is probably not true about all cyclists but the ones I have had “run-ins” with haven’t given me a good outlook on cyclists in general. One time I was on the pedestrian trail at Washington Park here in Denver. This trail is shared by both walking pedestrians and pedestrians on bikes. One goes one direction and the other goes the opposite direction just like a two lane street. Well, apparently I wasn’t on the right track because a “kind” cyclist rode up behind me and not too nicely informed me that I was on his track and should get back on my track where I belonged. Other times, I’ve almost ran over numerous cyclists while riding the residential and mountain roads around Denver. In every situation, it seemed as if I was invading the cyclist’s space, not the other way around. Take a ride down Lookout Mountain in Golden on a clear day and you’ll probably run into a few not too nice cyclists. I’m not saying that every cyclist is disrespectable and rude like the majority of the ones I have had dealings with. I consider myself a cyclist at times. It’s just the majority of the cyclists I’ve dealt with have been that way.
I work in a healthcare field that specialized in traumatic brain injury rehab. In the many hundreds of patients I have taken care of, I have come across numerous victims of motor vehicle vs. bicycle accidents. In all instances, the cyclist was wearing a helmet. Don’t believe the lie that a helmet will prevent injury. It will keep you alive but it won’t stop a traumatic brain injury. Some of these patients I have assisted will be permanently disabled for the rest of their lives. Some of them will always need help with the basic activities of daily living such as eating, bathing, dressing, walking, relieving themselves, dexterity, manipulating small objects and the list goes on. The injury affects the victim’s career, family life, quality of life and many other areas they enjoy. I have seen with my own eyes the lasting effects a cycling accident has on people. Sure, a traumatic brain injury will affect one’s life no matter what the accident was. However, the injury could be avoided if the cyclist avoided areas with high motor vehicle traffic.
In 1999, Parade Magazine published an article that stated, “Per miles traveled, bikes rank among the most dangerous forms of transportation,” Here are some statistics for you from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration:
– In 2009, 630 cyclists died on US roads
– 51,000 cyclists were injured in traffic in 2009 (up sharply from 43,000 the previous year)
– Head injuries accounted for 62.6% of bicycle fatalities
– Collisions with motor vehicles accounted for 75.7% of bicycle fatalities
– 61.7% of motor vehicle collision deaths were due to head injury
– In 2004, cycling was the number one sport related to head injury with 151,204 (Baseball took second place with 63,234)
– Riding without a bicycle helmet significantly increases the risk of sustaining a head injury in the event of a crash. Non-helmeted riders are 14 times more likely to be involved in a fatal crash than helmeted riders (from Safe Kids USA)
I am in no way condoning riding a bicycle. I do it myself! Yes, I can be seen riding my $25 garage sale bike around Harriman Lake that is 1.36 miles from my house. However, my route takes me through a neighborhood and onto a “green belt”. Green belts are exactly what it says; they are protected open land or open space surrounding a community as an amenity for its residents. Yes, I wear a helmet and bring water to hydrate my parched mouth along my usual 10 miles excursions. When riding on a major road, I make sure I ride on a sidewalk that is considered as a bike route.
If you haven’t already guessed, my solution to riding on a shoulderless road is to instead follow my lead. If you live in the Denver area, you will be familiar with the hundreds of miles of green belts located extensively throughout the city and surrounding suburbs. Some of the bike trails in Denver span for up to 40 miles in one direction! There is the Centennial Trail (AKA the C-470 Trail), the Highline Canal Trail, the Bear Creek Trail, the Clear Creek Trail, the Platte River Trail, the Cherry Creek Trail and many many other smaller local trails. Added up, the network of bike trails in Denver is probably about 1,000 or so miles which is plenty of space for a cyclist to enjoy exercising or going out for a leisurely ride. So there should be no excuse to put your life (and others) in jeopardy by riding on a road without shoulders or in high traffic areas.