Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Bicycle vs Automobile: A stubborn (and deadly) battle!

As a cyclist, it is always emotionally trying when I come across articles in the paper (or on-line) like the one I saw today. This particularly somber headline read "BICYCLER STRUCK, KILLED BY TRUCK IN DOWNTOWN CLEVELAND" (http://www.woio.com/Global/story.asp?S=11133216).

Unfortunately, this happens way too often around the country. In fact, the US National Highway Traffic Safety Administration stated that in 2007, close to 700 cyclists died on US roads, 90% as a result of a collision with a motor vehicle. Of course, a first knee-jerk reaction might be to think that the motorists were the ones at fault in these cases, but I can assure you, from my own experience as an avid rider, that far too many of these accidents are as much the fault of the cyclist as the motorist.

There are several reasons for this.

First, many cyclists are just not aware of the road rules. Believe it or not, there is an entire section of the Ohio Revised Code (for those cyclists in Ohio, obviously) dedicated solely to bicycle laws (http://www.dot.state.oh.us/Divisions/TransSysDev/ProgramMgt/Projects/bicycle/Pages/BikeLaws.aspx). Along with these laws, there are additional resources on bike safety rules and regs you can check out. Sites such as the Ohio Bicycle Federation (http://www.ohiobike.org/resources.htm) have excellent listings of these resources. I recommend every cyclist, whether novice or expert, peruse these laws for your own awareness and safety. Let's face it, most motorists despise the fact that we are even on the street with them, so don't compound the problem by being a problem.

Secondly, I think some cyclists believe that because they ARE on a bike, they are more maneuverable in avoiding accidents than an automobile, and therefore tend to take greater risks. Never was this more evident to me then when living in New York City, where cyclists, specifically couriers, dodged in and out of traffic with little care. Unfortunately, unlike a motorcycle, your bike does not have an obnoxious roar to give you away to the unsuspecting driver, nor do you have the same visible mass as something like a Harley, so the blur that is you may go completely unseen. I witnessed firsthand many a NYC cyclist clipped in the rear tire while racing across an intersection or narrowly escaping a head-on while recklessly darting onto an adjacent street. Again, this juvenile disregard for common sense safety makes a cyclist's argument for the right to share the road all the more difficult to make.

Now, having said all of this, I by no means intend to absolve the typical motorist from their own sins. Allow me to share with you a rant I posted on my radio show discussion page on this very topic. (What's that, a radio show, you say? Why yes, as a matter of fact, I DO have an Internet radio show called 'Table Talk with Bob Soroky'. Check out my show's fan page on Facebook for more details, or check out www.blogtalkradio.com/tabletalkbs.) My rant was as follows: "...as a motorist, you should be focusing on the road ahead, not wasting time leaning over your front seat to yell at me out of the passenger window. At that point, if anyone is going to get into an accident, it's going to be you because you are no longer paying attention. I have as much right to be in the road as you, so you better deal with it...you will also notice that most responsible cyclists will ride to the right of the white line...in the berm...precisely where your car SHOULDN'T be."

You can bet this little rant felt good, but it also illustrated the point that some drivers are so impatient on the road that they themselves become the accident waiting to happen. Motorists need to understand that they have laws dictating interaction with cyclists, which interestingly, do NOT include brushing within inches of one at excessive speeds whilst screaming expletives. As a cyclist, I follow the laws that pertain to me and do my best avoid any interference with automobiles. I expect motorists to do the same. (And, as a side note, for those motorists dying to make the argument that people on bikes would be safer and less of a hazard if they were riding on sidewalks or paths, think again: http://www.bike.cornell.edu/pdfs/Sidewalk_biking_FAQ.pdf.)

The simple fact of the matter is that the car and the bike have the equal right to be in the street, and each are governed by a specific set of rules. For both, I would say follow these rules, pay attention, and we'll all do just fine.

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