Archive for Wednesday, August 2, 2006

Riding rules

August 2, 2006


To the editor:

Sunday, July 23, around 9:45 a.m., as I stopped at the four-way stop heading north at Douglas County l057 Road or l900 Road and Douglas County 458 Road, there arrived from the east three bicyclists, each one following the other about two car lengths apart. Since I arrived at the four-way stop first I started to move with the intention of turning west to go on 458. However, the lead bicyclist did not stop at the stop sign and continued to turn in front of me heading south. Of course, I stopped immediately. The other two bicyclists continued to follow without stopping at the stop sign.

It has been my understanding that the one who arrives first at a four-way stop has the right of way to proceed in the direction they choose after stopping. If there is more than one vehicle arriving from any direction, they take turns according to their arrival time at the four-way stop, and this applies to any type of vehicle.

If bicyclists are going to travel these narrow country roads, they need to observe and obey the traffic signs and laws of the road.

My concern is not who is right or wrong but safety for all. If we all abide by the same rules, we can work together traveling the roads safely. I hope never to see one of those little crosses at that corner because someone did not observe the rules and caused a fatal accident.

John N. Gutschenritter,



Sandra Willis 11 years, 10 months ago

awoc, i agree with you, it was funny, but also kind of sad. The way I see it is that most bicylclists were TAUGHT that they are SPECIAL. Any rules do not apply to them.

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 11 years, 10 months ago

I'm sure you've got a well-researched and documented study to back up those statements, don't you JLoh21?

Surely, it can't be that hard to follow every bike-rider around and assess their driving habits/skills, and then do the same for each while behind the wheel. If you haven't done that yet, then please get right on it. Enquiring minds want to know.

BrianR 11 years, 10 months ago

Hey Grimp, who ate your rabbit this morning?

Perhaps you could start picketing the funerals of people who drive cars.

"Fortunately, bad cyclists are rare enough to still warrant this kind of faux indignation."

Now that's entertainment!

yourworstnightmare 11 years, 10 months ago

You are taking your life in your own hands when you ride a bicycle in Lawrence. These people are nutso. Good luck out there.

MWIV 11 years, 10 months ago

Unfortunately, cyclists are like some other people in this country. They don't want equal rights, they want special rights. They pay no road taxes, insurance, etc., but expect everyone to get out of their way and that the traffic laws do not apply to them. Then they wonder why some of their own get hit by cars. Go figure!

mom_of_three 11 years, 10 months ago

So I think we could agree that some motorists and some cyclists do not know or abide by the rules of the road. It seems both parties have been guilty at one time or another.
I was almost ran over by a large truck on the roundabout at 19th and Barker a few weeks ago. I entered the roundabout, and he was meeting the merge sign to my right. He stopped briefly and pulled out in front of me. I slammed on my brakes to avoid becoming a new bumper for the truck. Yes, I cursed, and made gestures, but he just stared like he owned the road.
So, yes, I think I can say parts of every group (trucks, cars, cyclists) need to learn and observe the laws.

badger 11 years, 10 months ago

bozo and rpk -

Last fall, a cyclist making a left turn against the signal on a busy Austin street was struck by an oncoming car and seriously injured. Though it was dusk, the cyclist wasn't wearing a helmet, had no reflectors or headlamp, and was wearing dark clothing.

Earlier this year, a cyclist riding on a busy highway with a minimal shoulder and low visibility due to hills and curves was struck and seriously injured when he crossed the white line into traffic, just a week after a woman riding the same stretch of road was killed.

Last summer, one of the people I worked with was driving through his own neighborhood and hit a neighbor who veered out of the bike lane without signaling or even looking to see who was coming, and the cyclist ended up in the hospital (also not wearing a helmet).

In all three cases, the local paper received hundreds or thousands of letters and online comments from outraged cyclists (mind you, only the second incident was actually reported in the newspaper, so there was a lot of word-of-mouth), because despite the fact that the cyclists chose to break the law, to ride where there was no visibility, or to eschew safety gear, it was 'irresponsible drivers' who were to blame for their injuries. Many letters suggested that drivers are also a bunch of lazy, obese, selfish hypocrites.

My co-worker's house was egged. He came out one morning to find that dozens of 'share the road' bumper stickers had been slapped onto his car, and for over a month he got nasty notes under his windshield wipers, ranging from "Learn to look where you're going," to profanity-laden diatribes about how he deserved to have fat diabetic kids and die of a heart attack.

No, I don't believe in a Cyclist Borg, but I do believe in message boards, communities, and organizations that launch letter-writing campaigns to newspapers and city government demanding more rights for cyclists and more penalties for drivers who hit them (whether the cyclists were obeying the rules of the road or not). I do believe in the high number of conversations I've either had or overheard in which someone complains bitterly about being cited for violating the law on a bike.

That's what bugs me, to hear the not-uncommon opinion voiced that cyclists shouldn't get the same legal penalties for breaking the law, and that in a situation where a cyclist who breaks the law gets hurt, the driver somehow bears an equal responsibility because he didn't respond fast enough to someone else on the road acting in an illegal manner.

If I get a certain number of tickets within a specified time frame, they suspend or revoke my license to drive. No such penalty seems to exist for cyclists. No matter how many times you get stopped for riding your bike drunk, there doesn't appear to be a cycling license to revoke. Why don't cyclists have to pass a competency test or be licensed to ride on the public streets?

MWIV 11 years, 10 months ago


If you have not learned in life by now, you may never learn, but respect is earned, not given. When I see cyclist's obeying traffic laws, I will have some respect. Until then, it is not earned. I still say until you guys obey the laws, the only message you are sending is that you want special rights. Sorry!

Linda Endicott 11 years, 10 months ago

Pedestrians in the crosswalk have the right of way over anything, even bikes. However, if you're walking across an intersection, and you have the green, you're still an idiot if you don't wait to see if those cars are going to stop for you, instead of just walking on out and assuming they will because they're supposed to. Which I have seen many an idiot pedestrian do.

Same with bikes. Yeah, the same road rules apply to both bikes and cars. But if you're on a bike and a car ignores the rules, you'd be an idiot to go into the intersection anyway, just because you're right. Bigger usually means deadlier.

Same as when I'm in my car and a semi cuts me off or ignores a signal or something. I'm not going to risk my life trying to duel with a semi, just because I'm in the right. Good way to increase the population at the cemetery.

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 11 years, 10 months ago

"What we really need to do is use my handy "Weight Ratio Theory." Whoever weighs more wins. Simple. Elegant. And yet effective."

So you're saying ban everything smaller than a Hummer?

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 11 years, 10 months ago

" I still say until you guys obey the laws,"

I'm not "you guys." I'm just one bozo out on a bike, and I obey the traffic laws. That you choose not to respect me solely because of the vehicle I'm on speaks volumes about your flawed logic and immaturity, and little else.

MWIV 11 years, 10 months ago

Goodness, you seemed to put all the motorist into one category! There is nothing flawed about it. Sorry. I stand by my statement. I should have known there really are some perfect people out there. And here I thought the last guy out there to be perfect had died over two thousand years ago. Good night.

allateup 11 years, 10 months ago

I tend to agree with the first poster. Bicyclist that want to use the highways to ride should have to tag their bike. That way there will be a way to identify them and report them when they do something illegal.

grimpeur 11 years, 10 months ago

Yawn. And you both could not be more wrong. I've paid my taxes on my house, car, gas, milk, shirts, CDs, and everything else that any other motorist has paid. And since MOST of the money that goes to roads come from non-car-related taxes, you can thank people like me for subsidizing your road use. And while you're at it, why don't you stop pretending to be surprised that there are jerks among cyclists at just about the same proportion as among motorists? Yet we still see these self-important posts like My Widdle Idiot's Vanity above. "I have a car, and you don't, so I own the road." Sorry, wrong.

Everything said here about cyclists goes 1000-fold for motorists. But the fact is that if we take the time to write a LTE every time we see a motorist breaking the law, behaving discourteously or flat out endangering or threatening other road users, we'd have little time for anything other than letter-writing.

The cyclists should have taken their turn, not proceeded when a car was already waiting. Fortunately, bad cyclists are rare enough to still warrant this kind of faux indignation. Meanwhile, we've grown so inured to motorists' selfishness, poor judgement and disrespect for the law that we accept these as normal.

If motorists are going to travel these narrow country roads, they need to observe and obey the traffic signs and laws of the road, too. The author, like almost all motorists and cyclists, did so. I wonder if he'll feel compelled to write the next time he sees a motorist speed, fail to yield, tailgate, fail to signal, talk on the phone, roll a stop sign, butt into a crosswalk, or fail to give full time and attention to driving.

Probably not.

badger 11 years, 10 months ago

grimpeur -

My problem is still that when a cyclist breaks the law and is injured or killed, the cycling community still seems to come down on the driver for not 'being attentive enough'. Had the writer of this letter hit one of those cyclists, we'd see all sorts of letters from cyclists complaining that because the driver was operating the larger vehicle, he should have been being more responsible and more careful, and implying that the driver was not paying attention or talking on his cell phone - even though it was the cyclists who broke the law and were being unsafe. That's my real problem with cyclists who break the law, that and them complaining about being ticketed for moving or safety violations. If I can get a ticket for having a brake light out, a cyclist should get one for riding after dark with no lamp.

If I remember them correctly (someone please correct me if I'm wrong) there are certain maritime rules that state that a smaller or non-motorized craft has the right of way over a larger or motorized craft. Cyclists seem to have decided that this will apply to the roads, and though I'm aware that pedestrians in crosswalks have the right of way over automobiles, I've never seen anything that says maritime rules about craft size apply to the cyclist/motorist issue.

I'm not at all denying that motorists and cyclists probably break the rules in about equal proportion. I think, though, to counter your assertion, if he'd seen three cars in convoy blow past him at a stop sign without even acknowledging that he was there, the writer of this letter might well have written the letter anyway. M'self, I haven't ever seen a group of cars traveling together all run a stop sign or red light together, or all cut across three lanes of traffic without signaling at the same time. If I saw something like that, I'd probably think it was remarkable enough to write a letter to the editor over.

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 11 years, 10 months ago

Badger-- I have a real difficulty with the notion that cyclists are some Borg-like entity that are somehow of one mind.

There is no secret network or convention wherein cyclists decide on how each cyclist will ride. Each cyclist is an individual, just as car drivers are all individuals. Assigning collective guilt to all cyclists for the transgressions of one individual just doesn't make any sense.

BTW, the only report of this incident is the one we have from the letter writer. It's quite possible that the cyclists have a very different interpretation. For as many reports I hear of cyclists blasting through stop signs (and, yes, it does happen all too often) as a frequent cyclist, a much more common experience is the failure of cars to grant the right-of-way to cyclists.

I've seen car drivers get visibly angry because I stayed in the pedals while stopping (admitedly a skill that requires some practice) and then proceeding to exercise my right-of-way. For them, I guess a cyclist is required to put at least on foot on the ground for it to be a real stop. I think this is indicative of a very common attitude among a lot of car drivers-- cyclists don't really belong on the road, and they will grant them right-of-way very begrudgingly, if at all.

Robert Kerley 11 years, 10 months ago

I have to agree that cyclists not obeying the rules of the road present a danger and a liability. However, I ride nearly every day, and I see automobiles break the law, I see pedestrians break the law, and sometimes I see cyclists break the law. Funny though, every automobile crash and dangerous driving incident doesn't turn into an LTE. The fact is, I'd be writing 2-4 a week if I kept track of all the really dangerous automobile driving I see while on my bike.

If anyone would like to commute to work by bicycle one day and obey the rules of the road, let me know, I'll ride with you. We'll be safe and keep track of the violations made by various parties then tally up by which ones have the potential to cause great harm. At the end of the ride we might even feel really good for having ridden, and if you ride home too, you'll have saved 20% on gas for that week! Then maybe we'll make plans to have a beer some night (See? Cyclists are regular dudes too!)

Badger: I'm not sure where you get the facts to support your first paragraph. I would think that a cyclist fatality that was clearly the cyclist's fault would cause more education about safe riding practices than a protest against drivers. The fact is, most cycling fatalities ARE the cyclist's fault because they're either children not paying attention, and/or they've been taught (or intimdated, perhaps?) NOT to ride according to the rules of the road, thus placing themselves in blind spots. However, any close calls I've had have been due to inattentive drivers - that's why I'm doubly attentive. And riding past dusk without a light on a bicycle IS a ticketable offense -- if someone complained about it, that's just too bad. I practice the responsibilities along with my rights.

A couple of pertinent links for curious drivers or cyclists about how things should work:

OfficeGirl 11 years, 10 months ago

I especially like the cyclists that ride down Kentucky/Tennessee streets and weave back and forth in between the gaps of parked cars. They are certainly brave. I would be afraid of big cars that could easily kill me. When I lived in town and occasionally rode a bicycle, there were streets I would definitely avoid for my own personal safety. The one-ways, 6th, 9th, 23rd, Iowa to name a few. I have never seen a bicycle rider do more than pause at any of the stoplights on the one-ways and when I am able to change lanes to get around them, they run through the red lights and end up back in front of me in the way yet again in the next block. I try very hard to give them their due but go by the same rules I have to when driving a car. Bottom line: cars are bigger and you will get hurt if you do something stupid on your bicycle and it won't really matter if you were right. Err on the side of caution. Right and dead don't get any brownie points. Take a little longer to get there and arrive alive. I can be as attentive as possible and still hit a cyclist who veers out from a space between 2 parked cars.

Robert Kerley 11 years, 10 months ago

From your description those definitely sound like over the top reactions. I'm sure someone could also cite times that drivers were at fault for an accident and didn't have insurance, drove away, or got off with a small fine. In fact it does happen, but just because it happens frequently in NYC, for example, I wouldn't say that "drivers" are heartless and incompetent and plow down anything in their way. In larger cities there will always be extreme groups, but they don't necessarily follow the mainstream train of thought in their cause.

Here in Lawrence I don't hear the complaints you're talking about. What does seem to happen here is that someone sees a cyclist do something stupid, then writes a LTE with the implication that most cyclists are lawbreakers and feel themselves to be exempt from the law. Then others chime in in agreement. I'd simply like readers to recognize that for every poorly ridden bicycle they've seen, there are those of us riding who take safety and the law very seriously. In fact, we probably outnumber the renegades, but you might not see us if we're taking low traffic roads or bike paths. And from time to time, there is really dangererous automobile driving too. Just sayin. :^]

I can't answer your last question. I'm guessing it has been brought up before in various communities and has been debated and reasoned out already. It seems licensing and revokation mostly pertains to motorized vehicles, but the reasons for that would be speculation on my part.

I'm guessing we can agree on at least something in here, so let's get a beer next time you're in town. Then go for a ride.

Erm... maybe in reverse order...

MWIV 11 years, 10 months ago

I understand that both motorists and bikers break the traffic laws, but occassionaly I see a motorist that has been pulled over by a cop. When and if, I ever see a cop pull over and issue a ticket to a cyclist, I "MIGHT" change my opinion. The chances are two fold, slim and none. Reference to maritime rules on right of way, a sailboat has right of way over a power boat, simply because of their manuvering inability, but regardless "might has right". A big ship is not expected or required to get out of the way of a small sailboat or even a small power boat. Big truck, small bike, do the math! I would value my life more to stay out of the way. BTW, if a biker is riding on a narrow two lane road, what does that say about the inteligence level of the rider........? Asking for trouble? Regardless, I don't care how much that biker "thinks" he pays in taxes, he has a responsiblity to abide by the laws. If he wants to cite the taxes he pays using his automobile taxes, etc. then drive his car. If a bike runs a stop sign in front of me and I hit him and/or swerve to miss him and hit another car, I would make every effort to sue the biker. Unfortunately, he would have no doubt already violated another law and left the scene of an accident. I stand by my earlier statement, bikers don't want equal rights, they want special rights. If they feel different, they need to spend some of their money to put on a better PR program to educate themselves. Until then, well.......?

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 11 years, 10 months ago

A couple of points, MWIV.

There are hundreds of times as many motorists as their are bicycle riders, and the fact remains that ANY infraction while driving a motor vehicle is inherently more dangerous because of mass and velocity differences. For those combined reasons, police will rarely use their limited time to stop the occasional maladaptive bike rider.

Sensible bike riders are well aware that a collision with a car can have dire consequences, and they ride accordingly. Those who do the most idiotic things do so because they are severely lacking good sense, which likely means that they don't have a driver's license. Next time you see one of those idiots crusing on his/her bike, just be glad they aren't behind the wheel of a 2000 lbs. hunk of steel going 30+ mph.

BTW, I don't want special rights-- I just want you to respect the ones I have, which include access to the streets and roads which bicyclists do also pay for, despite whatever misinformation you care to believe.

MWIV 11 years, 10 months ago

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus Good grief! Quit trying to make excuses for yourself. How in the heck can you justify one bad behavior with another? You can't defend your position. Tell me that really do obey all traffic laws when you ride your bike! Tell me you are perfect when you are behind the wheel of your car. I think there are some pretty stupid people out there riding their bikes, two and three abreast and not caring one way or the other about anyone but themselves. I guess the next time a see a news story about a crime being commited in Lawrence, I guess I should just be glad that it didn't happen in my neighborhood. Some logic! Don't tell me, you learned that in public schools.

ModSquadGal 11 years, 10 months ago

What we really need to do is use my handy "Weight Ratio Theory." Whoever weighs more wins. Simple. Elegant. And yet effective.

Many bicyclists in this town act like they own every stretch of road and how DARE cars invade their space. I know several people who ride and even THEY get angry at those riders. Yes, if you ride a bike, you probably drive a car and so you should have an idea of how difficult it is to maneuver a 2 ton car going 40mph around a little bike that suddenly appears half in and half out of your lane. Most of us (me included) are "okay" drivers on a good day because there is so much to pay attention to, and so many people not paying attention. Adding bikes to the mix, especially bikes with riders that are clueless, is a recipe for disaster every time. I'm sure it's not legal, but bikes should have to use the sidewalks, in my opinion.

They're smaller, slower and seemingly don't have to follow rules or be in fear of getting a ticket of any kind. At least car drivers are "policed" about their behavior.

badger 11 years, 10 months ago

rpk -

Beer sounds like an excellent idea. However, I'm a hiker, not a biker, so I'm afraid we may have to stick to beers.

I totally agree that lots of motorists do stupid, dangerous, or illegal things. I don't think the fact that cyclists also do stupid, dangerous, or illegal things at all justifies the fact that drivers do. For that reason, I get annoyed when people justify the things cyclists do with, "People in cars are just as bad or worse." There's no real excuse for a driver hitting someone and driving away because he has no insurance, but the fact that it happens isn't a reason to excuse a cyclist who skims across three lanes of traffic with no warning. Both things are wrong, and no amount of finger-pointing from one community to the other will make either of those things any more right. I point out things cyclists do not to defend motorists, who make more than enough mistakes, but to refute the 'blame the drivers' camp who tend to assume that car/bike accidents happen because of bad drivers, not bad cyclists.

When cyclists respond to, "You ran a red light," with "Motorists run red lights," it's like telling your mom you shouldn't get in trouble for breaking the window because your brother broke a vase last week.

On size and right of way, I recognize that understanding who has the legal right of way is very important. I also understand the idea of the Newtonian Advantage, meaning that even when I have the legal right of way, I'm not going to expect it to overrule the laws of physics with regard to motion, mass, force, and inertia. I don't care if I have the green light; a semi barrelling towards the intersection will win any fight with my hatchback, so I'll set aside the traffic laws to stay out of that intersection.

By the way, I might suggest that one reason we get letters to the editor like this one is that the LJWorld has had a few snarky letters and posts in recent memory about drivers not sharing the road, so it's possible that it's a 'retribution' sort of thing. Someone sees a letter suggesting that a cyclist was run off a country road by a rude driver, and so then when he sees cyclists doing something wrong, he thinks, "I'll write a letter too!"

Around here, the cyclist vs. motorist letters seem to be a cycle unto themselves.

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 11 years, 10 months ago

As a frequent and dedicated bike-rider, the idiots doing idiotic things on bicycles are at least as annoying to me as to any non-bike-rider, in no small part because I know that there will be the inevitible letters to the editor trying to assign collective guilt for such actions to anyone who ever rode a bike.

But the operable word above is annoying. For the most part, idiots on bicycles are nothing more than annoying. Any dangers they create are primarily to themselves. I'm sorry for everyone who has to endure such annoyance (myself included,) but that doesn't justify some of the calls here to ban me from the streets just because some idiot on a bicycle annoyed you.

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 11 years, 10 months ago

"Bullcrap, pure and simple. Slam on your brakes to avoid a idiot on a bike, and get slammed in the rear by 3 other cars, and the bicyclist rides away."

And if the idiot had been in a car, it would have been better? The problem isn't with the vehicle, it's with the operator. Leave your road rage at home.

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 11 years, 10 months ago

"You picked an appropriate name for your on-line handle."

Just wanted to make it easy for those of you whose best argument is ad hominem.

"I would think they would want to drive safe and ride safe."

Who are "they?"

Kelly Powell 11 years, 10 months ago

You need to quit the hair slpitting have been doing that a lot lately and it comes off as petulant.

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