Bikes Vs. Cars 

Responsibility and awareness on both sides are necessary

You don't have to be good at physics to understand Newton's Laws of Motion.

1. A body at rest stays at rest, and a body in motion stays in motion, unless acted on by an external force.

2. Force equals mass times acceleration (F = ma).

3. To every action, there is always opposed an equal reaction.

Simply put--physics kills. It killed three Boise bicyclists in recent weeks. The mass of the car multiplied by the acceleration (speed) of the vehicle was (much) greater than that of the bicycle and rider. The bicyclist's motion was acted upon by a greater (and deadly) external force.

We must accept two facts: 1) In a car vs. bicycle collision, the bicycle always loses. 2) Drivers are rarely injured in these encounters. To protect cyclists, wouldn't it be reasonable to ask each side to make some accommodations? In the words of Rodney King, "Can't we all just get along?"

Bicycles are everywhere

Drivers, please understand this: It's legal for bicycles to be on virtually every road in the state, so get over it. When you sit behind the wheel, you are maneuvering a lethal weapon (see F = ma). Take your responsibility seriously. Keep your head in the game. Don't talk on the phone, text, put on your makeup, eat, write, pet your dog or any of the hundred other stupid things I see every day. Amazingly, this will also reduce car vs. car accidents.

Don't get mad, move over

When you see bikes on the road, move to the left. Give them at least 3 feet. Louisiana is about to enact legislation mandating this. And get this, there's also a provision against harassing bikers or throwing things at them, with a fine of up to $250. Don't come up and honk your horn, you might startle the cyclist into your path (see F = ma). And if the road's too narrow to pass, slow down and wait. Learning patience will lower your blood pressure and make you a better person. Expect the unexpected; it's called defensive driving. Learn it. Practice it.

Cars outnumber bikes

Bicyclists please understand this: Physics tolerates no fool (see F = ma). There are far more cars on the road than bikes. They're bigger, faster and more dangerous. Don't mess with them. You have a right to be on the road; don't abuse it. Keep your proper place. That means riding with traffic, as far to the right as practical. And if we're asking drivers to drive defensively, you should be doubly aware. It's far better to be alive than right.

Idaho law allows you to roll through stop signs, after first slowing down to ensure the intersection is clear. You must stop at red lights before proceeding through when clear. These are privileges and not rights, and they can be taken away.

Be visible and predictable

Wear bright colors, and if riding at night, have a headlight and a taillight. Those cheesy reflectors aren't enough. Since you're considered a vehicle when on the road, ride like you're driving a car. Signal when you're going to turn. Keep a constant eye out for danger.

A word about sidewalks

Idaho law is weird. When bikes are ridden on the sidewalk, they're considered pedestrians. That means crossing an intersection when the light says "walk" and doing everything else as if you were walking. Sidewalks aren't necessarily safer than the road. It gets back to the predictability thing. What is a driver to think when he sees you on the sidewalk?


All of the recent fatal accident victims were wearing helmets. They died because the impact of their injuries exceeded the protective ability of the helmets. Without a helmet, your head will crack open like a ripe melon, even at the speeds bicycles are ridden (see F = ma).

Fixed gear bikes

You may think you're super cool, but you're really just a dumb ass. Brakes were invented for a reason--to stop you (see F = ma). And wear a helmet, unless you've signed, and are prepared to use, your organ donation card.

In the end, protecting cyclists is the responsibility of both drivers and riders. We live in a community with an unusually high number of cyclists. It's part of our quality of life. A little awareness on everyone's part will help us all get along.

Dave Fotsch is an avid bicyclist who commutes and rides roads and trails for fun and fitness. When not riding, Dave is the public information officer for the Central District Health Department, and the agency's volunteer employee transportation coordinator.

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