Vehicle or not?

I stopped at a red light on my way home after work. I was the first car in the lane to turn left so I looked across the intersection to see what the on-coming traffic intended to do. If the driver in the right lane (his right) went straight, I’d have to wait for them to pass before turning. The cross street was four lanes wide so if they turned right, I wouldn’t have to wait.

As I looked, I noticed a cyclist come up to the intersection. He didn’t stop, but he slowed right down. He was barely moving, but managed to stay upright without putting his feet on the pavement. Examining the traffic, he waited from a break and then proceeded through the red light.

The cyclist wasn’t young. I’d estimate the guy was in his forties. He had one of those helmet-mounted rear-view mirrors and was riding what seemed to be a nice bicycle. I don’t know that he appeared to be a serious cyclist, but he certainly seemed to be a commuter who cycled. Adding credence to this thought was the time. It was 4:45 p.m. and although the area wasn’t jammed, it was rush-hour. Perhaps the worst example I’ve seen is a cyclist zig-zagging his way across five lanes of traffic during dense rush hour when he did not have the right of way. That joker was clearly relying on motorists to stop despite his doing what he shouldn’t be doing.

This summer there have been a larger-than-average number of cyclist accidents in town, and the cyclists are not pleased. I can’t say I blame them. But at the same time, cyclists are fighting a steeply-uphill battle. The problem is that cyclists aren’t a single uniform group. They span the spectrum from the serious biker who believes they are a vehicle on the road like any other, to person who treats their bike more like walking, but faster. This second group doesn’t act like their bicycles are road vehicles, on par with cars.

The cyclist I saw this afternoon had all the accouterments of the first group, but he acted like part of the second group. Honestly, when is the last time you saw a car driver stop at a red light, wait for an opening, and then proceed through the intersection, despite the red light? Though there are far more cars on the road, cyclists break this fundamental rule of the road more often.

The serious cyclists are fighting to be recognized as a road-vehicle like any other, and the others are sabotaging their efforts. Which type of cyclist is right? I don’t know, but as a driver, I’d certainly prefer cyclists to act like other vehicles because I’d at least know what to expect of them.

Now don’t misunderstand me. I’m not trying to say that all the accidents are the cyclists’ fault. They’re not. I’m just commenting on the wide range of cyclists, themselves.

Interestingly, while searching for something while writing this post, I came across an article published today in England’s Daily¬†Mail called “Drivers ‘should always be blamed for cycle crashes‘.” The article begins:

Motorists should be made legally responsible for all accidents involving cyclists, even if they are not at fault, say Government advisers.

Cycling England, an agency funded by the Transport Department, wants the civil law to be changed so drivers or their insurers would automatically be liable for compensation claims.

The only people who would benefit from such a law would be the second group of cyclists I mentioned earlier. I expect the first group would fight such a proposal because it goes against what they’re trying to do.

I’d object to it as well. What do you do when a group of people refuse to follow the rules? I’d suggest that taking away what responsibility they should have is not the way to handle the situation.

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4 Comments

  1. Shawn
    Posted September 22, 2009 at 08:00 | Permalink

    Cyclists should have equal rights, but there are also laws that they must follow. If such a law came into effect, they would become more ill behaved than they are now. I am sick and tired of kids without helmets, people riding on the sidewalks. and just disrespecting all traffic laws. I am convinced that most car/bicycle accidents are the fault of the cyclist not following the laws and using common sense. I once scared the crap out of some young lady on a bike, going down hill on a sidewalk and the blasting through a red light at the intersection that I was about to turn into. Had I not seen her, she would be dead. But instead, i saw what she was doing, and drove right up to her and laid into the horn to inform her she was about to die. Cruel, no, i prevented her death. I hope next time she is more careful and learned a lesson. Her face sure was some pale.

    Ottawa police have not done enough to enforce the laws for cyclists, but are sure hard on car drivers.

  2. Jessica
    Posted September 22, 2009 at 09:04 | Permalink

    Good for you, Shawn! I am a commuter cyclist and I use bike paths almost exclusively, but the few times I do have to use the road, I’m always enraged by the stunts the other cyclists are pulling. Riding on sidewalks (I’ve actually blocked cyclists from passing me on the sidewalk when I was a pedestrian–man, one guy in particular was NOT happy!), going through stop signs and red lights, riding with headphones on, for crying out loud! What is wrong with these people? I assume they have a death wish. So maybe I’ll oblige one of these days….

  3. _don
    Posted September 22, 2009 at 14:11 | Permalink

    I have no problem sharing the road, but cyclist must obey the laws (and I too have seen many who weave through traffic, run through red lights and give vague hand gestures for turns).

    What gets me too is that, whether right or wrong, in the end, the big car will flatten the little cyclist. It would behoove them to be more respectful of the larger vehicles.

    I agree with Shawn regarding the laws. Not so much the kids without helmets as much as the ones with helmets that are not affixed to their head. When they go sprawling, the helmet will go a different way. And Jessica, I too will not move when someone comes down the sidewalk on their bike. HOWEVER, my only difference is little kiddies. The SUVs would run them down in an instant, because drivers also rarely pay attention.

    There has to be give and take on both sides, rather than each claiming the high ground.

  4. Shawn
    Posted September 23, 2009 at 11:01 | Permalink

    Ya, the itty bitty ones get a free pass, but the teens, NOT!!! One missed our dog by a hair last week. If she were bigger, I would just clothesline one of the cyclists with here leash and say oops, the dog must have moved the wrong way.

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