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Cyclist’s letter, cycling safety concerns draw reader reaction
Dear Street Smarts, Q: Jim Langley, a cyclist, responded to (Monday, June 24's) column that the gentleman in the wheelchair was at fault. (Langley) was not there, but I was, and I know what I saw. First, I am not anti-cyclist. My husband and I ride for pleasure frequently on country roads, as well as on paved ones with bicycle lanes. We stop at stop signs, by the way. Langley somehow thought the mention of the cyclists blowing the stop sign was unrelated to the incident and "fuels hatred toward bicyclists." As a motorist, I have had close calls with bicycles blowing by stop signs in front of me. As for the gentleman in the wheelchair, he was already in the bicycle lane when the speeding cyclists came down the street. They had to have seen him long before he saw them. This is an issue that will not be settled in your column or in your blog. Yes, bicyclists get hit by cars, and yes, that is tragic, and yes, sometimes it is the driver's fault. But oftentimes it is because the bicyclist blew a stop sign, tried to go around a car making a right-hand turn or some other miscalculation on the part of the cyclist. We truly do need to "share the road," but cyclists have got to get over the idea that they "own the road." I was yelled at when crossing in a pedestrian crosswalk that was flanked by stop signs by a cyclist who didn't stop when the cars did. The comment was that the cyclist did not have to stop. Respectfully, Beth Osgoode, Aptos A: Thank you, Beth, for your follow-up to the event you witnessed and Langley's interpretation. If anyone has any questions about the rules of the road as they pertain to cyclist can pick up a copy of the California Driver Handbook at the DMV or go online to www.dmv.ca.gov. Below are letters from other readers in response to Langley's ideas and cycling safety in general: Q: As a car driver and a bike rider, I read the response written by Jim Langley and think he is jumping to conclusions that don't seem to be based upon facts. First of all, I would hope most bike riders are cautious and courteous, considering how vulnerable we are in this world of cars, trucks and drivers who are not always paying enough attention to sharing the road. That being said, I have witnessed plenty of boneheaded bicyclists running stop signs, and acting as if nothing can stop or hurt them. I certainly understand the effort it takes to restart after having to stop at a stop sign, especially if no other moving vehicles are in sight. But in traffic, if car drivers decided that they can blow through a stop sign, it can be dangerous if not fatal. Bike riders are not exempt from the law requiring to stop at a stop sign. That some bike riders ignore the fact that they have to share the road and the law is just not very intelligent. That kind of bravado can be fatal, of course. The apparent facts of this incident don't call for denial of what happened. It does call for thoughtful reflection and caution on the part of everyone who is on the road. A person who is confined to a wheelchair can't move very fast, and has enough difficulty without fast bike riders trying to run them off the road. Show some respect and courtesy! And of course if you don't feel it is a problem, I hope the next time you are inconvenienced by someone else in the bike lane who is legally there, and feel the need to be rude or dangerous, that a cop notices and pulls your sorry butt over and gives you an expensive ticket. Don Mussell via email Q: Thanks for your continued discussion of cyclists' and motorists' responsibilities. I cycle frequently and I stop at stop signs, use turn signals and follow the rules of the road. I fear that the aggressive cyclists who do not do these actions make it more dangerous for all of us to use our own leg power to get around. As to the incident with the person in a wheelchair, the kind thing to do would just be to slow down, wait until it is safe to pass the chair, stop at the sign, and do so slowly enough to not startle the person. Kindness and respect for the rules on the road improves our quality and safety of travel. Thanks, Freya Sands via email Q: I really appreciate most of what is written in Street Smarts. I do wish all bicyclists would read and understand the rules of the road in California. Many do not seem to understand basic bike safety, such as riding on the right-hand side of the road with traffic, wearing white -- or light colors -- at night, having lights and reflectors on their bikes, stopping at all stop signs or lights, and riding single file, rather than two or three abreast. In addition to not following the rules of the road, many bicyclists don't wear protective helmets and other safety gear in case they lose their balance, skid on sand, or in some other way crash and fall down. Summer Drive in Aptos is no place for bicyclists. Many parts of it are too narrow, have no sidewalks for people, and have somewhat blind curves. Yet, Summer Drive is used for many bicycle races -- usually with the CHP monitoring the intersections at Rio del Mar Boulevard, Clubhouse, and Seascape Boulevard. The so called bicycle lanes in this county are quite inadequate. Not only are there not enough of them designated, but they are very narrow. I really appreciate the bicycle lanes in some other countries. When I lived in Denmark, where bicycles are a major mode of transportation, the bike lanes were about six feet wide. They were located next to the sidewalks, and usually paved. I don't know what can be done to educate all the bicyclists in this area to be more careful and follow the rules of the road. Your column is helpful, but I bet that most of the people who are at fault of not being safe and careful, don't read it. Ruth Landmann via email
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