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Archive for Sunday, September 24, 2000

Equal partners?

Some bicyclists still don’t “get” that their failure to follow traffic laws always will be an issue for motorists with whom they share the road.

September 24, 2000

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This is the sort of comment that drives a wedge between motorists and bicyclists. To show their concern about bicycle-related traffic issues, 125 cyclists most of them notably not wearing helmets rode as a group around "the square" in Lawrence: down Massachusetts Street to Sixth Street to Iowa Street to 23rd Street and back to Massachusetts. Along the way, they blew whistles and yelled at motorists to "Get out of your cars!"

The event itself, scheduled to coincide with heavy late-afternoon traffic, didn't seem tailor-made to build good will between bicyclists and motorists.

And a comment from one of the cyclists quoted in the Journal-World adds emphasis to one of the reasons there is ongoing tension between the two groups. The cyclist had received a traffic citation during the ride for running a red light.

After that, she told a reporter, "There's a big concern here, seeing that if there were bike lanes this wouldn't be an issue."

She's wrong, bicyclists who don't obey standard traffic laws are a huge issue. She went on to say that drivers need to be more cautious of cyclists. Drivers are well aware of that and part of the reason for the increased caution is the unpredictability of many not all bicycle riders.

When cyclists ignore traffic lights and stop signs, they undermine the safety of everyone on the road particularly themselves. Bicycle lanes may provide room for bikes to travel and make cyclists more visible to drivers, but they can't compensate for cyclists who slide through stop signs or fail to signal for turns.

If bicyclists want to be equal partners on the road, they must adhere to some of the basic tenets of defensive driving that motorists follow. They must be aware of other vehicles and ready to compensate for someone else's mistake. But most of all, they must follow standard traffic laws that are designed to ensure the safe and efficient flow of traffic on streets and highways.

Many bicyclists also are, from time to time, motorists. As such, they have to be aware of how important it is for cyclists to follow traffic laws and not always depend on motorists to yield to whatever traffic decision they may make.

Most motorists are not anti-bicycle, but when cyclists fail to follow traffic rules they create a situation that is frightening both to themselves and the driver, who may not see them or respond quickly enough to avoid an accident.

As the cyclists said, bicycle lanes and racks are important issues issues that Lawrence city officials have taken major steps to address but so are the traffic laws that a number of riders in Thursday's group chose to ignore.

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