Letters to the Editor

Bicyclists’ rights

April 24, 2009


To the editor:

By implying that most bicyclists ignore the law and most drivers are innocent victims of police zealotry, the Journal-World editors have yet again put their ignorance on display. As a bicyclist that regularly commutes via the Lawrence bike paths, I daily encounter cars obstructing crosswalks while waiting for red lights, rolling through stop signs/red lights while making right turns, and in general failing to yield to any pedestrian including cyclists, joggers, dog walkers, and even people pushing baby strollers.

Drivers are not entitled to every inch of paved surface; they just act like they are. It is time to acknowledge that drivers frequently bend or break traffic laws and rarely have to face the consequences. In the more than five years of commuting by bicycle, I have never seen any of the hundreds of lawbreaking drivers I’ve encountered warned or ticketed for any of their offenses. Although “oblivious and arrogant bicycle riders” are certainly a danger to themselves, a greater danger to us all are the countless number of oblivious and arrogant drivers on the road.

I challenge the Journal World editors, and anyone else for that matter, to properly educate themselves by ditching the car and commuting by bicycle for one week. Maybe then you will open your eyes and minds and realize the truth: Most drivers do not respect the rights of bicyclists.

Bowen is from Lawrence


RoeDapple 8 years, 12 months ago

Mark, As a person who has done a fair amount of cycling in the past I resent your implications."Most" drivers? "Most" bicyclists? Try using a little reason. Motor vehicles outnumber bicycles on the streets by tens if not hundreds to one. There are inconsiderate operators of both means of transport. You see a lot of inconsiderate drivers because of the sheer volume of drivers you encounter. My experience has been, there are a far higher percentage of cyclists who will blow a stop sign or cut across lanes without checking traffic because of a perceived "right of way" attitude that relieves them of the caution of defensive driving. You know those vehicles out weigh your means of transport by thousands and in some cases tens of thousands of pounds. Driving at the same speed, you can stop in one fourth the distance of most cars, and an even greater fraction of any commercial truck. Even with the right of way, any assumption on your part that any other driver of whatever kind of vehicle will do the right thing could prove fatal for you. Defensive driving is about give and take, being courteous and forgiving. The personalities of the people you see in everyday situations at work, out shopping, or across the street are the same as the drivers you encounter on the street, all different, all with their own issues. Nobody climbs into their car thinking," I'm going to watch out for Mark today, he is the center of the universe." Get over yourself, drive defensively, know that others have their own agendas and for the most part are doing their best at any given moment.

Enjoy the ride, you'll be glad you did.

Richard Heckler 8 years, 12 months ago

Mark is on target about car drivers no question about it. They are the largest segment of law breakers on the city streets. Why else would the city need speed traps and why else would so many neighborhoods be requesting speed controls?

Do cyclists blow through stop signs? Some do... Do car and truck drivers run red lights? Absolutely

Do cyclists break speed limits and create high speed chases around town? No. Perhaps a very few cyclists are muscular enough to break speed limits.

Have cyclists killed or maimed anyone as a result of a traffic accident? Not that I know of.

Do cyclists cause respiratory problems due to exhaust emissions while commuting about town? No

Is cycling good for your health? Absolutely... most of us are physically able.

Could cyclists dress a bit more colorful in order to be seen better? Perhaps

Could most do more riding than we do? Absolutely

Do cyclists create potholes thus increase the need for more tax dollars? Probably not

Is sharing the road a good Idea? absolutely

Do cyclists have as much right to the road as any other vehicles? You bet and state laws agree.

lionheart72661 8 years, 12 months ago

You know , I ride a bike a lot too and i do stop at every stop sign and stop light. The very morning i read about the cyclist getting hit I was at the red light on 6th and Mass. When a cyclist slowed down at the red light and rode right on through. Another time on 18th and Illinois a bycylist "BLASTED" past a stop sign without hesitation. I agree cars are supposed to stop before the cross walk but remember Mark, bicylist are under the very same guidelines as motorists. I've cycled to work in Texas and here and I do know that all in all Lawrence "IS" a biker friendly town.

gphawk89 8 years, 12 months ago

"Even with the right of way, any assumption on your part that any other driver of whatever kind of vehicle will do the right thing could prove fatal for you."

Totally agree. I made the mistake of assuming earlier this week that a pickup would stop for me at a marked crosswalk (with stop signs) in our parking lot. I was wrong and got bumped as he rolled right through the stop sign without even slowing. The idiot was talking on his cellphone and reading some kind of paperwork in his lap - not even looking where he was going. Luckily he was only doing about 5mph at the time. I'm usually pretty level-headed but this particular event had me screaming at him as he drove away (probably scared that I was going to attack him).

Chris Ogle 8 years, 12 months ago

Maybe everyone should just walk.... somebody would bitch about that also.

gphawk89 8 years, 12 months ago

"Driving makes it easy to do whatever dumb thing you want to do, easily and cheaply."

Yeah, I kind of that aspect of it. Given my current commute, I have about two extra hours to spend with my family each day because I drive rather than bike. And driving sure made it much more enjoyable to take home that 400 pounds of topsoil and mulch from the hardware store the other day.

gphawk89 8 years, 12 months ago

Oops, lost a word there. Should have read, "Yeah, I kind of LIKE that aspect of it."

John Hamm 8 years, 12 months ago

Hmmmmmm. Lemme see. Car drivers are the biggest sector of lawbreakers. I'll probably concede that BUT (and there's always a but) I'll also wager that bicyclists break more traffic rules per rider!

mom_of_three 8 years, 12 months ago

I have seen more than my share of bicyclists blow through stop signs at a 4 way stop around campus because I have stopped according to the laws of the road. I have also seen vehicles roll through 4 way stops also. However, cars are a little easier to see sometimes than a person on a bike.
But I will say the rate at some bikes go on campus on the sidewalks and blowing right by me, that a bike could do serious damage to a pedestrian who accidentally gets in the way.

storm 8 years, 12 months ago

By the way, this letter doesn't apply to joggers in the road -those joggers definitely need to be ticketed when a sidewalk is there for their use. This is a very well written letter, I encourage everyone to read it at least twice. Then be courteous of all slow-moving vehicles including bicyclsts on streets.

Leprechaunking13 8 years, 12 months ago

My question is why are these cyclists crossing at crosswalks? You are operating a vehicle, ur suppose to encounter stop signs and pedestrians just like an automobile. Yes cyclists can speed in this town and often do because they don't think they can be ticketed...WRONG!!!

gphawk89 8 years, 12 months ago

How many bicycles or cars come to a COMPLETE stop at EVERY stop sign? I'd wager that over 90% of drivers AND riders break at least one law on every trip.

Todd Hiatt 8 years, 12 months ago

"My question is why are these cyclists crossing at crosswalks?"

Because cyclists have the option to ride on sidewalks, where they are treated as pedestrians, or on roads, where they are treated like operators of motor vehicles.

sassypants 8 years, 12 months ago

Ok, there are 2 kinds of cyclists. The serious cyclists and the cyclists that just jump on a bike and ride from one place to another. I have seen that MOST serious cyclists do obey the rules of the road. But when it comes to the cyclists that ride from point "A" to point "B" , they hardly ever obey any of the rules. They rip right through stop lights, crossings, ect. No care in the world because they are pedestrians. They know that the auto driver is the one that is going to stop, and most likely in event of accident are going to get the tickets from police. To the serious cyclists. Thank you for obeying road rules. For the other cyclists. Grow up!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

storm 8 years, 12 months ago

Bicyclists can get ticketed if they use a sidewalk but they won't get ticketed if they use a recreational path. The rec-path is wider, and the sidewalk is more narrow. However, rec-paths in this City are not logical in getting people who bicycle from their home to their job or to shop. Instead, bicyclists must be in the street - as any other person with a slow-moving vehicle.

Comments about drivers/ riders blowing through stop-signs bolsters the case for roundabouts because roundies serve all modes of travel. Bicyclists can keep momentum up instead of stopping, and drivers consider stop signs optional.

tvc 8 years, 12 months ago

Farfle, you are missing out. To ride to another town or state by the power of your own legs is amazing.

I agree sassypants!

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 8 years, 12 months ago

If that's the case your posts show indications of frequent wearing of tight, girly pants, musbihiorlo.

kerplunkr 8 years, 12 months ago

storm writes: "By the way, this letter doesn't apply to joggers in the road -those joggers definitely need to be ticketed when a sidewalk is there for their use."

You ever tried jogging on some of Lawrence's sidewalks storm? Jogging in East Lawrence is difficult due to poor sidewalk quality. I jog in the street if necessary, but I'm always jogging against traffic so I can be seen.

Speaking of sidewalks, cyclists need to remember that they belong on the road or a bike path. Maybe you could start handing out tickets to bicyclists on Mass St., eh storm?

notajayhawk 8 years, 12 months ago

merrill (Anonymous) says…

"Do cyclists have as much right to the road as any other vehicles? You bet and state laws agree."

Well, no, merrill. Apparently you've never read the state law, or perhaps you're incapable of understanding it. The law says that if there's a path for bicycles, cyclists are required to use it rather than the traffic lane, and if they must be in the traffic lane, they're required to stay as far to the right as possible. Somehow that doesn't quite translate into "as much right to the road as any other vehicles."

tumbilweed (Anonymous) says…

"Driving creates wars for petroleum and death. Driving makes it easy to do whatever dumb thing you want to do, easily and cheaply ..."

Driving raises the tax money that pays for those roads the cyclists are arguing they have the right to use ...

fletch 8 years, 12 months ago

Many cities such as Portland and Davis, CA have been changing their laws so that cyclists can treat 4 way stops and 2 way blinking red lights (i.e. late at night) as yields instead of stops. Portland did this because it was cheaper to change the law than to retrofit all their car sensors to be able to pick up cyclists in the middle of the night. Davis did it because they found it was more dangerous for cyclists to come to a stop and lose all their momentum, causing them to start slower, and thus cars try to "beat" them through intersections. It merits looking in to.

As for all the other kerfluffle, I'll say this. Most drivers I know drive safely. Most cyclists I know cycle safely. Does this mean they obey the law 100%? Hell no. Cyclists need to do some things that aren't 100% within the letter of the law to keep themselves safe, just like drivers need to do similar things in the flow of traffic (going over speed limit, passing too closely, rolling stops, etc, etc). The goal isn't to pass blame. It's to have everybody drive smartly and recognize there are multiple users on the roads, each with their own set of laws and best practices (cars, delivery trucks, buses, motorcycles, mopeds, bikes, pedestrians).

If as a cyclist I obeyed 100% of the driving laws, I would be dead. American road infrastructure and driver mentality are not as far along as Europe as far as integrating bikes into commuter traffic. When I first started commuting, I clung to the inside of the right lane as the law told me to do. Then people started to try to pass me within the lane instead of giving me the 5 ft the law requires. After getting brushed a few times, I started to cycle in the middle of the right lane (which most commuter cycling advocates agree is the safer option). It clearly states my intent to use the whole lane, and it forces drivers to safely go to the left lane to pass. We both live, and they're no more inconvenienced. 100% legal in all areas? No. Safer for everybody involved? Yes.

That being said, I know drivers and pedestrians hate it when bikes get too close or run stop signs. I'm sympathetic. I just hope you realize that they are the far majority of us. I get irritated when cars try to run me off the road (usually about once a week during my commute), and they are the most vivid images I have of cars in traffic, but the truth is that 99% of the cars that pass around me are perfectly safe and nice. I don't hold them accountable for the 1%.

Gina Bailey-Carbaugh 8 years, 12 months ago

Bicyclists do not have right of way in a crosswalk, unless they are walking their bike. Bicyclists must obey the rules of traffic when on the street. All of us, whether car or bike or motorcycle, must pay attention when driving. We are all in this together.

missmia 8 years, 12 months ago

I was at a four-way stop the other day and the driver to my left went through the stop after coming to a complete stop, so one would presume it was my turn next, but apparently not the cyclist behind the driver who went on through and turned in front of me. Having had plenty of experience with cyclists in Lawrence ignoring stop signs, I anticipated that would happen, so I was able to stop quickly enough to let him go through. Another driver might not have been able to stop as quickly as the cyclist not only broke the law of not stopping at a stop sign, but also not following the proper protocol when approaching a 4-way stop and taking turns with the other drivers that approach at the same time as they did. I don't think the road belongs entirely to drivers, but I do think ANYone on the road should obey the same rules as everyone else, regardless of their mode of transportation. Stop signs say "stop", not "stop if you're driving a car, bikes can ignore this sign".

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 8 years, 12 months ago

That you have to make such absurd attempts at comparison indicates what a stupid idea that is, farfle.

tearanydawn 8 years, 12 months ago

I have nothing at all against cyclist and I do ride a bike once in awhile for fun. I do not use it to commute because I have a son whose daycare is clear across town from where I live and also from where I work. My son also rides his bicycle with me for fun and I have been trying to teach him to be very safe. When we cross the street (because we do ride on the sidewalk in our residential area) we get off our bikes and walk them across, after making sure there are no cars coming from any direction. With that being said the other day I almost hit two different bicyclists in the same drive across town because both blew straight through stop signs. I am just happy that I was not going to fast and was able to react in enough time to stop. The one that really bothered me though was a Mom who had a tandem bike with her son on the back. She completely blew right through a stop sign didn't even bother looking to see cars coming and I almost hit the back of her bike aka where the son was riding. She never even once acknowledged that my car was in the road at all or that she had just endangered her son. I realize that people get zoned out when driving, walking, or riding a bike and that is what puts everyone in danger. People need to make sure and always watch their surroundings while doing anything near or on the road.

Linda and Bill Houghton 8 years, 12 months ago

As for joggers, the primary reason for jogging in the street rather than the sidewalk is the difference in the material. Concrete is very damaging to the joints, asphalt is not. Have you ever seen a running track with a concrete surface? Think about it.

storm 8 years, 12 months ago

So basically, if a person has two good legs and they can run in the street, then they can obviously maneuver a sidewalk especially a sidewalk in east Lawrence. kerplunker - a person in a wheel chair cruising down a low-volume street is more deserving of empathy, though. Bicyclists are allowed on streets, and pedestrians are not when sidewalks are provided. From what I've observed, bicyclists on sidewalks are less of safety threat than some one running in the street.

gl0ck0wn3r 8 years, 12 months ago

Can Richard create a post entirely out of rhetorical questions? You bet! Does that make it right? No.

Lowell Holmes 8 years, 12 months ago

As a cyclist and a driver I am amazed by all the cyclists that take their lives into their hands by blowing through controlled intersections. In all car vs bike accidents that I am aware of, the car has been the winner.

gogoplata 8 years, 12 months ago

It would be nice if people were more courteous when they drive. But for many that isn't going to happen. So if you ride you have to be super vigilant because if there is an accident it probably won't matter who is right or wrong. They could get a dent in the fender you could die.

remember_username 8 years, 12 months ago

I was sick of all the anecdotal commentary by both bicyclists and drivers so I counted.

At a residential intersection in west Lawrence over several weeks. 0% of cars observed went through the stop sign without slowing down. 43% of cars observed slowed to near stop before moving on. Of the 57% of cars observed that did stop completely only 27% (about half) had no traffic to stop for and thus came to the correct full stop before moving on. Of the remaining 30% in this group I couldn't tell if they would have stopped anyway.

92% of bicyclists observed when through the stop sign without "apparent" slowing. I say apparent as many timed the speed of the approach to allow any traffic to clear the intersection. Of the remaining 8% I think they just mistimed their approach and were forced to slow down or stop by traffic.

Here's the kicker. No bicyclist ever stopped for a pedestrian in the intersection - in some cases clearing them by less than a meter as they went through the intersection. To my surprise every car confronted with a pedestrian in the crosswalk came to a complete stop.

So there it is, real numbers indicating a real difference. Just in one residential part of town. I'd bet the numbers would be different downtown.

kerplunkr 8 years, 12 months ago

storm, unless you're driving blind, runners on the street are not a major safety threat.

And just because some people have two good legs doesn't mean they can and will maneuver a sidewalk with ease. If the eastern part of town had a sidewalk/bike path similar to that which lines clinton parkway, I would love to run on it. However, brick and uneven concrete poses many injury risks to runners. When was the last time you went running on the sidewalk?

Jersey_Girl 8 years, 12 months ago

From about the age of 10 until my last semester of high school, , when I finally got a car, I got everywhere by bicycle. And I admit that I blew through my share of stop signs (there weren't as many lights as there are now, so most lights were at major intersections where I would want to stop anyway), but only after checking for traffic. I never tried to beat a car to an intersection or through an intersection. If there was a car coming in any direction from as far away as a block, I'd stop at the stop sign. On streets like Iowa or 23rd/Clinton Parkway, I'd use the sidewalk. There usually weren't any pedestrians and if there were, I'd ride around them in the grass. I had zero delusions about my visibility or ability to take on a car. I knew who would win that fight.

If you are a bicyclist and you see a fellow bicyclist breaking traffic laws or acting in a foolhardy way that will likely cause us car-crazed drivers to gripe about all cyclists, tell them that their behavior isn't just affecting them.

jumpin_catfish 8 years, 12 months ago

If you don't like the way I drive stay off the sidewalk. ;-)

Time to go home have a great weekend!

RedwoodCoast 8 years, 12 months ago

Regardless of bicycle issues, I think everyone should ask themselves how they can be more conscientious drivers. When the LTE writer mentioned cars blocking crosswalks, one of my biggest driving pet peeves came to mind.

Let's say you're pulling up to a red light in the right lane of a multi-lane road. You are trying to make a right-hand turn on the red light. The only problem is that the idiot in his big truck or SUV in the lane next to you has completely blocked the crosswalk. In order for you to safely make your right turn, you have to pull out nearly into traffic just to see around the idiot in the oversized vehicle. Sometimes that right-on-red is impossible because any maneuver to see around the idiot would surely put your life and the lives of the drivers in the oncoming traffic at risk.

When I say "conscientious driving," I mean things like NOT blocking the visibility of people next to you who want to make a right turn on a red light. And people, use your frickin turn indicators.

gsxr600 8 years, 12 months ago

Motor vehicles and cyclists alike break the laws all the time. When it comes down to it however, the chance of a cyclist getting hurt/killed because of their illegal actions is much higher. When I see a cyclist riding down 6th street at 11pm on a Friday without any lights on, they are simply asking to get smashed. Cyclists as well as mopeds blow through stop signs as well all the time. It's just a matter of time before someone gets killed. Cyclists need to be more defensive in their actions because they have so much more to lose.

Oh ya and I was just in Eudora tonight coming back to Lawrence the back way and had to stop in the street because 3 bicycles were creeping along a non lighted street in the middle of the road without lights on. You people deserve what comes to you.

Richard Heckler 8 years, 12 months ago

Do car and truck drivers run red lights? Absolutely every time the light changes it seems. More than one at a time at speeds fast enough to kill a pedestrian or a cyclist.

Cars cost wayyyyyyyyyyy more in tax dollar spending than bicycles ever could: fixing potholes created by large vehicles salt and snow cleaning annual road resurfacing projects always demanding $200 -$300 million dollar roadways rather than being patient or allowing more time to reach a destination or discovering a new way to reach point B. All new roads lead to tax increases. large law enforcement presence and expensive radar units to encourage respect for speed limits police time to investigate daily auto accidents personal property and high gas taxes to support roadways large court house staff to negotiate collection of taxes and sell license tags "spikes" and other devices to bring car chases to a halt car chases endanger peoples property and lives after drivers demand more expensive roadways developers pile their own profit making tax increases on all taxpayers such as

$88 million sewage treatment plant,which in and of itself increases the cost of community services Then more water and sewer lines * streets and repairs

*houses - with increased numbers of houses you have increased demand on services, and historically the funding of revenues generated by residential does not pay for the services, they require from a municipality = tax increases.

public schools fire stations law enforcement manpower sidewalks snow removal bike trails and cross walks Traffic signals Traffic calming * Increased staffing and equipment

  • developers requesting more tax dollar assistance and new infrastructure for their warehouses and retail strip malls.

In general increases the cost of community services to all taxpayers across the board. All new roads lead to tax increases.

It would far more fiscally responsible to slow down, show some patience,respect each others rights to use tax supported roadways and realize it is okay to share the road. There are violators of traffic laws no matter their choice of vehicle.

KsTwister 8 years, 12 months ago

Gut feeling told me to change lanes, a little under the speed limit,no traffic,6:30 am,dark and damp. To the cyclist on the bike coming off of Emery and onto 9th street---you would have died. And the look on your face told me you realized that. You did not stop or even slow down , just whipped out onto a major street with traffic. What were you thinking? Son, in earlier times I would have pulled you over and given you a lecture. Not in this age, you may just die the next time. Enough said.

altarego 8 years, 12 months ago

I don't know. Funny thing is, my few years experience in Lawrence has been that bicyclists here are generally more savvy. Sure, I have had the occasional encounter with someone who doesn't know what they are doing, but I have lived in towns where there is NO serious bike culture, and I'll take Lawrence any day since I do both.

Slowing down for a cyclist and waiting to pass safely don't seem like that big of a problem to me. But there again, I'm saving up for the big Hooters grand opening out on the SLT, so what do I know?

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 8 years, 12 months ago

Well, Jesse, you inadvertently made precisely the opposite point you apparently intended to, given that cars/trucks use petroleum products at many, many times the rate per mile traveled that bicycles do. So, no, cyclists aren't doing their part as you contend.

Emily Hadley 8 years, 11 months ago

I definitely agree that MOST drivers do not stop at the white line, do not yield to pedestrians, do not understand the laws in regard to sharing the roads, and do not believe that bicycles have a right to be on the road.

I walked and biked everywhere when I lived in Lawrence and now bike through the urban core of Kansas City, MO. I stop at every single stop sign, red light, etc., always signal, always use lights, know the state and local laws and carry them with me, and I resent those cyclists who don't share the road safely and respectfully.

Despite my militant ways, I have been hit 3 times by inattentive or malicious drivers, run off the road countless times, had obscenities screamed at me, had crap thrown at me, and even ticketed by Lawrence police when I was well within the law.

Biking and what I witnessed doing it really improved my attentiveness and safety as a car driver. Drive to the letter of the law for a month-- fully stopping, looking both ways, driving the speed limit, never entering an intersection before you can clear it, etc. etc.-- and you will surely be surprised how many pedestrians, cyclists, and inattentive drivers spring into your path that you might never have noticed before. Moreso, much like with drinking, you start to realize how idiotic everyone looks when you aren't doing the same thing.

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