Letters to the Editor

Bike concern

January 30, 2008


To the editor:

I live south of Clinton Lake and love riding my bike. County Road 458 winds around the south side of Clinton Lake, and if you have not taken the ride, do it this spring.

I do have a few concerns, however. I need the community to help me understand the rules of the road for bicycles. A few examples I need clarification on:

1. Two bicyclists riding side by side around a 90-degree turn, two cars following cyclists, oncoming tractor. Should the cyclists change their riding posture to single file?

2. Three cyclists riding side by side, several cars behind cyclists and oncoming traffic. Again, should the cyclists change to single file riding?

I am concerned someone is going to get hurt, or worse yet, killed because they are following the rules but not using common sense. I also want to give the cyclists some insight into country life. We drive back and forth to work every day; these roads are our main thoroughfares. Heavy farm equipment is an everyday appearance. Deer, homeless dogs, kids in the car and winding roads are just a few of the possible distractions that we deal with every day. Please enjoy our surroundings and use common sense. Thank you.

Pat Hubbell,



grimpeur 10 years, 4 months ago

Cyclists should ride no more than two abreast, per state law. Motorists should never pass when there is oncoming traffic in any case.

2 feet from cyclist to right line + 2 foot-wide cyclist + 4 feet minimum passing distance between car and cyclist = 8 feet minimum distance between car and right white line when overtaking one cyclist

This means motorists are either passing too closely or are in the oncoming lane when passing even a single cyclist.

Fortunately, thanks to Douglas County's generally good drivers and good cyclists, straight roads with few curves and moderate hills, and looooooooong, straight, unobstructed sightlines before curves and hills (as on all of 458) means that the "hit from behind" accident has never occurred in Douglas County and is vanishingly rare everywhere else. Why? Because it requires a colossal act of negligence on the part of a motorist to fail to see a person-sized person in the road ahead, particularly when cyclists are two-abreast.

Two-up cyclists improve safety for all road users by increasing visibility, discouraging improper passing, halving the distance required to pass, and allowing cyclists to communicate without taking their eyes from the road. Occasionally, motorists may be delayed by oncoming traffic, but that's not going away any time soon. Thank you, neighbors, for your patience and care as motor and bicycle traffic pressures increase.

Mike Curtis 10 years, 4 months ago

"Common sense"? 200 pound bicycle @15 mph sharing a trafficway with a 4000+ pound automobile @ 60 mph. ...Speechless!

Richard Heckler 10 years, 4 months ago

grimpeur stated it well. Sooner rather than later an opportunity to pass always happens.

Other than that as a commuter cyclist and a driver cyclists wearing colorful attire does attract the eye of a driver.

Also as a cyclists and driver, at night why not use flashing lights and a front light? It creates more visibility than cyclists may realize.

Rickyonealku 10 years, 4 months ago

Find a better place to ride or that tractor with poor breaks may not stop in time!!!!

dirkleisure 10 years, 4 months ago

Marion - can't spell what word? Common or Sense? Or is "common sense" one word with that rarest or rarity a space in the middle?

Lighten up, Frances. -- Sgt. Hulka

Hoots 10 years, 4 months ago

The last time I rode 458 was during an Octigenta. I for the most part have given up riding in the county due to too many close calls none of which had anything to do with me but rather aggressive motorist. I prefer to ride back roads in town and trails by the river. I'd rather avoid trees than deal with people who would sooner break a side mirror off on my back than give me a few inches.

Rickyonealku 10 years, 4 months ago

Ever watched the movie A Good Year with Russell Crow??? A small car that Russell Crow is driving in drives past a group of bike riders....and the hand singnal each other give says it all......Find a safer place....oh I also ride a bike its a trail bike and this snow if fun to ride in so try that sometime.

ralphralph 10 years, 4 months ago

An extensive network of bike and pedestrian paths is a great idea in any town, though it need not be as extensive as roads. Making it easier and safer to ride increases ridership and rider safety, and reduces motor vehicle traffic and pollution. People aren't going to give up their cars, but more will leave them parked if it is easy and safe to ride the two wheeler.

dirkleisure 10 years, 4 months ago

You know what else really burns me?

These runners who drive their legs and running shoes to these running events.

How bizarre. Only in America!

Bill Chapman 10 years, 4 months ago

My >ONLY< transportation (other than feet) is a bicycle. In nearly 30 yrs. of bicycle riding on city streets and local trails, I have been hit 12 times. In every case, the car driver was the one at fault. Lawrence drivers only use turn signals about 50% of the time - this has contributed to about half of my accidents. The other half tends to be do to either inattention or stupidity.

Inattention: talking on the phone while driving, reading the paper/magazine while driving, (insert all the usual stupid driver distractions here), etc.

Stupid: assuming that since your vehicle is bigger than mine, the law says you have the right of way (NOT!!), trying to hit me with the trailer towing mirror extensions on your truck, throwing things at me (beer bottles, trash, etc.), trying to force me off the road (because it's the stupid thing to do?), turning a corner without even looking in the direction you are turning, using a plug-in portable halogen spotlight to blind me in the middle of the night,etc.

The next person that hits me is going to sued to point they will not be able to afford a car, SUV, etc. Then they will have to learn what its' like to not HAVE a car, SUV, etc. With my current medical problems, after hitting me (if they don't kill me) they may just end up supporting me for the rest of my life.

Bill Chapman 10 years, 4 months ago

I should also note - For all those drivers who tell me to ride on the sidewalk:

According to the law that is ILLEGAL.

For those drivers who complain when I do ride on the sidewalk (usually 23rd st):

Be happy that I'm breaking the law and NOT riding in the street.

For those drivers that complain that I don't always signal a turn(a rarity):

I'm more concerned with making sure just where all the cars are at so I don't get hit while making a turn - if I can I try to signal the direction I'm going to go. This is very difficult in the winter - you have trouble driving a four wheeled vehicle on the snow / ice covered streets - try riding a bicycle (thats TWO wheels!) on them sometime! The amount of snow / ice on the street REQUIRES that I use both hands to keep from dropping my bike (and me) in the middle of the street in front of your car, truck, etc.

Bill Chapman 10 years, 4 months ago

Marion writes:

Does the same apply to the driver of a car or truck if the accident is YOUR fault?.

Sure - but I will most likely be either dead or permanently disabled. I have had severe lower back problems in the past - bad enough that one doctor I saw suggested fusing 4 or 5 of the vertebra in my lower back. Six months of physical therapy fixed me, but over exertion can give me back spasms / cramps that can literally curl me up in a ball. Like I said: "I'm more concerned with making sure just where all the cars are at so I don't get hit while making a turn . . ". When I am riding a bike ALL of my attention is on the street around me for about 50 - 75 yards. Not just my eyes - I use ALL my senses when riding: eyes, ears, feel (I can feel semis - they vibrate the road!),etc. I'm not: listening to a radio turned up so loud that people three blocks away can hear it, reading a paper, putting on make-up, screaming at my kids, trying to shave, or trying to cover myself with the newspaper because I just realized that bicyclist beside me can see that I don't have any pants or bra on and my shirt isn't buttoned.

All of these I have seen - cyclists can see VERY well into cars and most SUVs. This also means I can I.D. the idiot from Johnson Co. that spit in my face, the Douglas Co. guy that hit me with a beer bottle and the guy that slowed down to see me get back on my bike after hitting me with his mirror extensions (not too smart bub - looking back at the guy you could have killed then driving off!).

Janet Lowther 10 years, 4 months ago

Well, I regularly drive some roads in Jefferson County which probably have traffic rates in the realm of 10 vehicles/hour, maybe less.

I have come unpleasantly close to "bagging a biker:"

Two bikes abreast on a winding gravel road with blind corners + Car doing 35 + bikers doing 15 + ABS brakes refusing to engage on gravel = Oh [expletive deleted].

So far I haven't had to decide between a biker and a tree, but. . .

storm 10 years, 4 months ago

Of all risk-taking modes of travel, I consider joggers in the street worse than bicyclists - because bicyclists have the right to the street (unless rec-paths are there).

To answer this letter, for safety's sake, the bicyclists should remain two-abreast. Bicyclists should never ever go single file. This is because motorists have a tendency to share the lane with the single bicyclist instead of choosing to pass the correct way (which is in the oncoming lane when clear). A single bicyclist has to be more careful. They may need to be "too far" in the center of the motorist's lane, but you have to understand, bicyclists are safer there - because this forces motorists to share the road, instead of the lane. If the motorist shares the lane, the bicylist could end up in gravel, or be hit by the mirrors. Waiting to pass bicyclists is no different than waiting for slow moving tractors.

matahari 10 years, 4 months ago

hey, what a great idea! Lighted turn signals for bikes! now someone is going to steal my idea and make a zillion bucks,(or perhaps it's already out there) but wouldn't it be handy? Just a click of the thumb, and your left or right turn signal starts to flash! ingenious! I USED to ride my bike 458 to work, but no more! that was giving my life to someone elses drving skills, never a good idea...people just don't "see them" or think, "well. I am bigger!, so i win! I think lawrence needs to have a system like Linclon Nebraska, google that route!, wonderful! and cut right thru town on nearly NO ROADS! I am sure they've expanded it since I've lived there, but I loved it!

PATGILBEY 10 years, 4 months ago

Thank you folks who responded with factual information. I feel much more informed about the rules of the road and have a better understanding of riding 2 abreast. I hope this has educated drivers and cyclists alike.

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