Tuesday, April 8, 2008

Bicycling and the Law.

My intention with this blog is to explore all the aspects of bicycle commuting in Medford, and sometimes elsewhere, when things come up that deserve a note. My plans include speaking with bicycle store owners and staff, cyclists here in Medford (especially commuters), and other folks who have things to share with the community.

Here's an interesting video, pointed out by Ed at CycleDog. The debate rages on about what a cyclist can legally do when he or she is riding, alone or in groups. I plan to put up an interview with someone in the Medford Police Department about this subject, so folks can get it straight from the horse's mouth, so to speak.

My view on this video is that the cyclists look to be going for fitness and race prep more than just out for a sunny day ride. I don't think that gives them any special privileges, but it does explain why they aren't stopping and pulling over for the long line of cars they have behind them.

I look at the whole issue this way. If I were driving, would I do (insert action here) in my car? For instance, if I was driving, would I drive on the shoulder of the road at a stop light to get in front of all the other cars waiting at the light if I know I'm just going to have to move back over when the light turns green? No, I wouldn't. I'd wait my turn at the light just like everyone else. This option goes out the window when you have a dedicated bike lane THAT CONTINUES THROUGH THE LIGHT TO THE OTHER SIDE. Not like the one on Crater Lake Avenue and McAndrews Road, more like the one at Highway 62 and Cardinal.

If I were in a car, would I run a stop sign? This one is a little harder, because in a car, you don't have to pedal up to speed after you stop. I will admit to running a stop sign on my bicycle. It's always the same stop sign, and it's always at the same time of day. It's the stop sign on Crater Lake Avenue and Coker Butte. It's always around 3:00 am, and I've always checked to make sure there is no one around. If any of those variables are off, I don't run the sign. The reason I run that sign is because I've just pedaled my 250 lb butt up the hill just south of Coker Butte, and my legs are still working off the lactic acid. When I stop at that sign, I lose a lot of momentum and it's really, really hard to get it back. I am also fully prepared to take the consequences if I do that and a cop happens to see and pull me over. It's my choice and my consequence.

If I were in a car, would I ride against the curb? Of course not! When I ride, I ride in the right third of the lane. It makes me visible, it gives me escape room, and it shows drivers that I'm another vehicle, just like them. If I were in a car, would I continue driving 20 mph in a 45 mph or 55 mph zone without letting folks past? Heck No! I grew up in Colorado driving narrow mountain roads. If you're being slow, and you have folks piling up behind you, you take the first turnout you can get and let folks go by. It's just plain courtesy.

Finally, if I were in a car, would I swear and make all sorts of rude hand gestures at other drivers? No! I drive politely, I ride politely, and I treat every user of the road with the respect I would want shown to me. The idiots who honk and scream as they go by get a friendly wave or a peace sign, and a great big smile.

I'm of the opinion that bicyclists should be treated as any other vehicle operator. If you break the law and get caught, you should face the penalty. If you're riding up the wrong side of the road, you should get a ticket. Running stop signs - ticket. Running stop lights - Ticket. Weaving erratically all over the roadway - yep, ticket! By treating drivers and cyclists equally, you show both sides that neither is above the law, neither is better than the other, and both have equal right to the road.