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October 29, 2005

Do Cyclists have the same rights as cars?

This question led to quite the discussion on the Blog ( ? ) of the Canyon Courier, of Evergreen, Colorado, recently.

The 2 principle players?

1. Greg Dobbs, an Emmy Award-winning correspondent  who worked for ABC News for 20 yrs.. He is host of “Colorado State of Mind” on Rocky Mountain PBS, and reports on global issues for satellite TV’s HDNet.

2. Kelly Weist is an Attorney, and political activist, who has served on the board of directors of the Colorado Federation of Republican Women and is the co-founder of Mountain Republican Women. She is an adjunct professor of political science at the Metropolitan State College of Denver.

Greg wrote a great piece centered around 1 central truth: "If I’m riding and you’re driving, we both have a right to be there. The bigger point is, each has a responsibility to the other."

Kelly wrote a piece about cyclists taking up the road, and being an annoyance that ends this way: "I say ban ’em before I run ’em over."

Greg responds. ;-D

Kelly fires back. ;-D

As of October 13th 11 people have put in their 2 cents on the subject. ;-D

One guy even quotes extensively from Colorado Cycling Law as he takes the disgruntled Kelly to task. ;-D

As a reminder to readers, who have not checked out my archives, about where I stand, let me guide you to my  January 2003 essay called "BICYCLIST TO CAR OWNERS: CAN'T WE ALL JUST GET ALONG?".

So just what did Greg write to get this lengthy discussion underway?

[ comments by me interspersed ]

From Sept. 28th:

During the two days I was home between week-long trips to the hurricane, I squeezed in a single 45-minute bike ride. Bikes are my main lifeline to good health. And in that short ride on a winding road near Bergen Park, some son-of-a-you-know-what of a driver — or maybe the daughter-of-a-you-know-what — nearly knocked me off the road. I wasn’t hogging the lane; I heard the car behind me, saw it in the mirror that hangs from my handlebar, and hugged the shoulder. But the driver came close to either accidentally killing me … or trying to kill me. At the very least, whoever was behind the wheel ought to have his or her license revoked. At the very most, the driver ought to be in jail.

[ Hear, hear! ]

This was far from the first time this kind of thing has happened. Every time, I want to stop the driver and shout, “Couldn’t you cross halfway across the friggin’ road to give me a safe margin?” And if he’d say, “But I couldn’t see far enough ahead to know it was safe,” or, “I couldn’t cross because there was a car coming the other way,” I’d ask (again, in a slightly louder voice than the printed word conveys), “You couldn’t slow down for a lousy five seconds until the coast was clear?” And I don’t care if it’s 10 seconds, or 30, the point is the same. When I’m the one in the car coming up behind a bike, it doesn’t kill me to slow down and give the bike a wide berth. It could kill the rider if I don’t.

[ In my experience even holding such a conversation with the more anti-cyclist of the car driving public is impossible. ]

So don’t give me the line that bikes shouldn’t share the road with cars. Yes, we take our lives in our hands when we share it with irresponsible drivers behind the wheel, but that doesn’t make close calls our fault. True, some people on bikes are as irresponsible as some in cars — sometimes, I swear, bikers seem to be asking for it — but if you don’t condemn me for the stupidity of some jerk on a bike, I won’t condemn you for the stupidity of some jerk in a car.

[ Hear, hear! ]

Anyway, I pay road taxes too. The same as everyone else. I could even argue that my bike does less damage to the road than your car, but that’s not the point. The point is, if I’m riding and you’re driving, we both have a right to be there. The bigger point is, each has a responsibility to the other.

[ Responsible drivers, and cyclists, understand that, but the anti-cyclist drivers, and the far too many cyclists unfamiliar with the law, much less the practices of safe cycling, don't. ]

That’s why I was floored by a letter to the Courier a few weeks ago from a guy in Morrison. He wrote, “People’s right to live should trump bicyclists’ right to a pleasant ride.” Well excuuuuuuuuse me! Last time I looked, I was “people” too. I wouldn’t blame some angry bicyclist for firing back to this guy, “Bicyclists’ right to live should trump drivers’ right to lose not a second in getting where he wants to go.” But I wouldn’t say that because, again, responsibility for my safety and yours is mutual. Good judgment must be mutual too.

[ “People’s right to live should trump bicyclists’ right to a pleasant ride.” vs. “Bicyclists’ right to live should trump drivers’ right to lose not a second in getting where he wants to go.”

2 extreme views of the conflict  between cyclists, and drivers, with the sensible middle just trying  to get along. We realize that responsibility, and good judgement, need to be practiced by all of us in order to make our experiences on the road safe ones. ]

The conflict isn’t about rights. It’s about responsibilities. And humanity. And stupidity. And if a guy on a bike is stupid enough to tangle with a car, is that reason enough to kill him?

The debate, and resulting comments that follow ( add your own! ), can be read here:

Do Bicyclists have the same rights as cars?

October 29, 2005 in Voices From The Open Road | Permalink


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Holy cow! Weist sounds like a loose cannon. Thanks for posting about this.

Posted by: Fritz | Oct 29, 2005 12:58:00 PM

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