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May 31, 2007

OC Register Columnist Comments Sensless and Destructive


Gordon Dillow, of the Orange County Register, published in Santa Ana, Ca., is one of my favorite columnists for the newspaper of record in this mostly Conservative bastion of Southern California.

So it  was with shock, and disapointment, that I read his latest column, in yesterdays paper.

I was driving along an open stretch of Pacific Coast Highway the other day, at or just under the posted speed limit of 50 mph, and every hundred yards or so I was passing groups of two or three or a dozen bicyclists pedaling along in the bike lane. And that's when it occurred to me:

I don't want to share the road. More specifically, I don't want to share a high-speed road with bicycle riders – not because it's that big of a problem for me, but because it's too dangerous for them.

Yet another non-cyclist out to tell Bicyclist's what's best for them!

Rather than accept that California has laws that govern motor vehicle and cyclist/pedestrian use on all roadways ( As does every other state in the Union. ), and that  Multi-use roads are in place for all to enjoy, he appears to prefer not to educate himself, or his fellow motorists, on how to share the road with us, or even join the ranks of us cyclists who are trying to educate our fellow riders on how to share with motorists... and walkers, and joggers.

He contunues:

perhaps cars and bikes can safely share the roads in residential or other areas where the speed limits are 30 or 35 mph.

But on roads like sections of Pacific Coast Highway, where speed limits range up to 55 mph, it seems like utter madness to have 3,000- or 4,000-pound cars going 55 mph hurtle past 25-pound bikes going 15 mph – with nothing more substantial between them than a thin white stripe delineating the shoulder or the "bike lane." It's like allowing baby strollers on the freeway.

Since there is no law against cyclists riding on a street w/o a bike lane, we have the right to be there, but be there in a safe manner, and to expect Motorists to be as aware of us, as we are of them.

As for PCH, from Seal Beach to Newport, I'm one of those who prefer to use the wonderful Class 1 Bike Trail along the beachs, but see no problem with cylists riding on PCH as long as they do so safely.

Yes, I know we've spent millions of dollars creating bike lanes – as opposed to separate, no-cars-allowed bike "paths" and "trails" – along our streets and highways. I also realize that in this day and age there are few things more politically incorrect than to suggest that cars be given preference over bicycles. After all, in the popular view, motor vehicles are pollution-spewing, gas-guzzling (and gasoline tax-paying) monsters, while bikes are benign, environmentally friendly little munchkins.

But the problem is that when monsters mix with munchkins, the munchkins are inevitably going to get stepped on – too often with tragic results.

Please pardon my fellow Conservative for his dig at the Political Correctness that is admittedly rampant in the land. ;-D

In this case, however, he is misguided in bringing up the issue.

Class 1 Bike Trails, and Rail Trail projects, are popping up all over the place, especially here in the OC, if you know where to look, and who to ask.

Bike Lanes are not always the best solution for streets, and using them is not always the safest option for cyclists ( I HATE the ones were cars can park between the Bike Lane, and the Curb! ).

He quotes some stats that he says make it "pretty clear that statistically it's more dangerous to ride a bike on the roads than to drive a car."

Then he asks, "And whose fault is that?"

He answers his question this way:

Stats on that are hard to come by. But I asked two veteran Orange County traffic cops that question, and both agreed that, based on their experiences, half or more of car vs. bike collisions are caused by the bicyclists. They veer into traffic lanes, they travel the wrong way on streets, they blow through stoplights – in short, they don't safely share the road.

Obviously, a lot of motorists do boneheaded things, too. They veer into bike lanes, cut across them into parking lots, don't keep their eyes open for bicyclists and so on.

But the point is that regardless of who is at fault in a car vs. bike collision, it's the bicyclist who's going to suffer, physically at least. Once again, no 25-pound bike is ever going to "win" in a collision with a 4,000-pound car – and yet we persist in trying to mix heavy, high-speed motor vehicles with light, low-speed bikes on high-volume, relatively high-speed roads.

He's right, you know, about the fault being just as much that of the cyclist, as the motorist, in these incidents.

That is something I've been saying since the fall ( Archive of posts. ), but have not been getting much in the way of reaction, except a few in anger at me.

Some of the accidents, last year, in the OC, and around the nation, were the fault of the cyclist, and in some cases, while the cyclists was NOT at fault, the cyclst was still doing something unsafe, from riding on the sidewalk, to not wearing a helmet, and more, as Mr. Dillow suggests.

He continues:

Well, some people would argue that we'd actually be better off if we all slowed down to a bicyclist's pace of 15 mph or so – and who knows, maybe they're right. But in the real world, fast-moving cars and slow-moving bikes simply don't mix. Under those conditions, the only real solution is to physically separate them as much as possible with barriers or dedicated bike paths.

No-one is suggesting that Motorists slow down to a cyclists pace, and they would be wrong to do so.

In the real world motorists, and cyclists DO mix, and always have, and they are riding locally, and nationally, from one end of the country, and the world, to the other.

The only real solution for making this co-existence work for everyone is for all parties to be educated on how to best co-exist.

Class 1 Trails, and Rail Trails, are a wonderful alternative that we cyclists can, and do, take advantage of, and more, and more, of them are being created all the time, but, especially for the Bike Commuter, using them may not always be practical.

There are motorists who hate cyclists enough to want to encourage doing us harm, and those who have actually done so.

He ends is essay this way:

Now, I'm sure I'll be hearing from bicyclists who will explain to me – in a civil manner, I hope – just how wrong I am on this one. If so, I'll try to fairly present their point of view in a future column.

In the meantime, I'll continue to try to safely "share the road" with bicyclists, and I would encourage other motorists to do the same.

But I still can't figure out why any bicyclist would be crazy enough to want to share the road with us.

I want to apologize, here, and now, for the misguided vitriol that will be fired his way by a relatively few of the more, um, unreasonable, and, um, radical, or simply just hurt, and offended, of my fellows, whose attitudes, and language, are NOT, I assure you dear reader, representative of the vast majority of cyclists, even the Liberal "Enviromental Whacko" wing of the Community. ;-D

I hope he will follow thru with his promise of a follow-up, or 2, and take the time to chat with his columnist coleague, Dave Whiting, in the Outdoors Section, like he should have in the 1st place, and especially check out the links in my sidebar, as I encourage readers of this essay to also do.

There you will find links to clubs, activist groups, Class 1 Bike trails of every variety, and length, nation, and world-wide, and to safe cycling related websites with all the info 1 could ask for, as a cyclist, in learning to best way share the road in a safe manner.

Read The full article by Mr. Dillow, and add your 2 cents to the discussion, there, and here in my comments as well: Cars and Bicycles shouldn't compete.

May 31, 2007 in Share the Road, and Trail: Safety Matters! | Permalink


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Mr Dillows article has motivated me to do something I have not done in a long time, write a newspaper. I explained my postion, in a civil manner, why he is off the mark. It is obvious the Mr. Dillow has not ridden a bicycle in a very, very, long time. I too hopes he follows up the the responsed he receives.

Posted by: Eric | May 31, 2007 6:06:51 PM

I was driving my 18 wheeler truck along a stretch of Highway 101 the other day, at or just under the posted speed limit of 65 mph, and cars of all types passed me on the highway. And that's when it occurred to me:

I don't want to share the road. More specifically, I don't want to share a high-speed road with cars and SUVs and minivans – not because it's that big of a problem for me, but because it's too dangerous for them.

70,000 pounds of tractor+trailer+contents is no match for a 6,000 pound SUV.

Posted by: Fritz | May 31, 2007 10:46:16 PM

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