IT’S SO COMMON in this area many may think it’s the norm. People pedal bicycles as if bound by no laws, heading against traffic, zipping on and off sidewalks, and behaving as though traffic signals and stop signs simply don’t apply.
Sadly, car drivers can be equally inattentive and dismissive of traffic lights and signs, never even thinking about bicyclists’ rights.
Both attitudes are wrong and can quickly lead to injury or death, as demonstrated in a small story on page 2A of Sunday’s Times Leader. Brian Peters, the driver of a car hit by a bicycle, said he was proceeding through an intersection with a green light when the bike rider appeared from nowhere and hit the side of his Subaru.
“What sucks is I’m a cyclist too,” Peters told a reporter while the bike rider lay on his back in the middle of the intersection, attended by ambulance workers. Later, the cyclist’s father, Carl Havira, insisted his son was a frequent and cautious rider who couldn’t explain how the accident happened (fortunately, his worst injury appeared to be a broken collarbone).
Contrary to the way some behave, bicycles and cars can peacefully co-exist on the road. In fact, by state law, they are supposed to. It boils down to this: Any person on a bicycle (or “pedacycle”) “shall be granted all of the rights and shall be subject to all of the duties applicable to the driver of a vehicle.”
Which means bikes aren’t supposed to be rolling on the sidewalk, or going against traffic, or darting in and out of any convenient pathway. It means cyclists have a right to ride on the road in the same direction as traffic, and a responsibility to obey all traffic signs and lights, to signal turns with their arms, and to yield to pedestrians.
If a cyclist feels a thoroughfare is too dangerous for a bike, consider picking another route rather than zipping onto the sidewalk.
Motorized drivers must, in turn, give a bicycle every legal right granted a car, including enough room to operate, slowing and waiting for the opportunity to pass safely, and yielding the right of way whenever it belongs to the cyclist. This included avoiding the notion of passing a cyclist, then abruptly turn right in front of him or her.
Perhaps most importantly, car drivers must remember that the cyclist is not ensconced in a two-ton cocoon of steel with airbags. Sideswiping a car with a side-view mirror leaves a scratch; sideswiping a cyclist can be fatal.
And if obeying the law isn’t motivation enough, consider the more meaningful reason to be respectful to others sharing the road: The life you save may be someone who matters to you, or a relative of someone who matters.
The golden rule is still the best, even on a bike or in a car: Treat others as you would want to be treated.