Monday, June 29, 2009

Grudge Match: Car v. Bike

Posted By on Mon, Jun 29, 2009 at 11:37 AM

I've been waffling about when I should weigh in on the car/cyclist collision course Boise is currently navigating.

Last night, as I drove down Sixth Street, I was given good reason.

First, I'd like to preface what I'm about to say with these facts, which are in no particular order: I bike. I drive. I try to do both responsibly. A good friend of mine spent three days in a hospital after being hit by a car on his bike and the driver never even realized he or she had mowed down a cyclist. I've written about Idaho's progressive bike laws for the San Francisco Bay Guardian, and I've been a guest on a Portland, Ore. radio station discussing bike safety and the driver/cyclist dynamic in Boise.
I'm no expert, but I do know Idaho's bike laws fairly well, and I do defend the freedom we Idaho cyclists have that other, more progressive states, do not.

Back to last night.

Me: driving eastbound on Fort Street, blinker on to turn right southbound onto Sixth Street. (Disclaimer: I bike Sixth Street south an average of five times a week.)

She: cycling westbound on Fort Street, turns southbound onto Sixth Street without yielding to the car who had the right of way (me).

Me: I know I've committed similar errors as a cyclist by mistake, so I give her plenty of room to navigate the road.

She: while riding smack down the middle lane of a three-lane road, gestures at me in anger as I pass her on the left.

Although I've sat back over the last few weeks as the cyclist/driver debate simmers on medium heat in the blogsphere and in media coverage, this particular incident was a prime example of why so many drivers hate cyclists and why so few cyclists are causing grief for many responsible cyclists.

This woman, who was riding right down the middle of Sixth Street, was a completely irresponsible rider. She should have been riding as far to the right as she could get, and she should have yielded to traffic when turning onto Sixth.

Instead, she was in the wrong and she hollered at the driver.

Lady, learn the bike laws.

Same goes to Carol Huteson of Boise, who left this in a message on the Mayor's Hotline on June 16:

"... why not make the sidewalks wider and then create a marked-off area on
the sidewalks just for bicyclists, just like it is on the streets? They’re supposed to be walking their bikes across the intersections anyway..."

Thanks for the thoughtful suggestion, Carol, but clearly you don't know the law, either. Here it is:

A person operating a bicycle upon and along a sidewalk, or across a highway upon and along a crosswalk, shall yield the right-of-way to any pedestrian, and shall give an audible signal before overtaking and passing a pedestrian or another bicyclist.
A person shall not operate a bicycle along and upon a sidewalk or across a highway upon and along a crosswalk, where the use of bicycles is prohibited by official traffic control devices.
A person operating a vehicle by human power, or operating a motorized wheelchair or an electric personal assistive mobility device upon and along a sidewalk, or across a highway upon and along a crosswalk, shall have all the rights and duties applicable to a pedestrian under the same circumstances.

I don't see any law requiring cyclists to walk across a street.

None of my ranting will prevent an accident. My hope, however, is that these incidents are furthering education for all the uneducated drivers and cyclists out there. After that, I can only hope that drivers and cyclists both pay attention and quit blaming one another.

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