Jewish World Review August 12, 2009 / 22 Menachem-Av 5769
It's time for cyclists and motorists to reconcile
By Michael Smerconish
Bill Clinton facilitated the release of
Before we lose this detente mojo, we need to tackle one more area of controversy: Let's negotiate a peaceful coexistence of bicyclists and motorists.
You know the dispute. No doubt you've encountered it during your commute to work or in the middle of your morning ride. The bikers think drivers are aggressive and self-centered. The drivers think bikers are bottleneck-inducing traffic-law violators.
The conflict exists all over the world, according to
And soon. Hundreds of Ride of Silence events have popped up throughout the world to honor the increasing number of cyclists injured or killed in accidents with motorists. In
I used to side with the motorists. I remember thinking bikers had a sense of entitlement that seemed to grow out of their Spandex shorts. They were posers —
Then, three years ago, I was invited (well, shamed is more like it) to ride my bicycle from
My bike experience until then was largely confined to a green number with a banana seat and monkey handlebars, which I used to pedal around my neighborhood in the
By now, three Tours de Shore have afforded me a whole new perspective from the bicycle seat. I now know, for example, that many bikers ride along the white line because it offers the smoothest surface — a far safer path than the field of potholes and debris often found a few feet to the right. I also recognize the alarm that the blowing of a horn can cause for a biker. And I understand the hazard that a closely passing car can present.
I also acknowledge bad behavior on the part of bikers and confess to having contributed to it. Cruising along some bucolic farm roads about 15 miles from
I'm also convinced that bikers have a legitimate right to use the roadways. But ending the kerfuffle between them and motorists is going to take some compromise on both sides.
Here's a starting point: Bikers should recognize that hitting the road means obeying laws as every other vehicle does. So ride with traffic, stop at lights, and yield when appropriate. Recognize that not all roads are meant to be pedaled.
And stick to single-file lines. That doesn't mean hugging the guardrail or the side of the road. Cyclists who give themselves a couple of feet will make it more likely that drivers do the same.
Drivers, meanwhile, should give cyclists at least three feet of clearance when passing. They should stay off the shoulder, even when the car in front of them is making a left; it's meant for bikers and emergencies.
And stop honking at bikers to make a point. Treating them like vehicles on equal footing with cars will go a long way toward keeping everyone safe and civil.
"Still, to this day, every time I see a rider while driving, or even when walking the dog, I can't help but think about Valerie,"
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08/05/09 Faces have changed, but vitriol remains
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