Bicyclists need to follow the rules, too
October 3, 2013
In Christopher Rosacker's Sept. 27 article about bicycle safety that appeared in The Union, Ellen Lapham of Bicyclists of Nevada County was quoted as saying, "I always feel nervous and would be especially cautious riding Newtown Road or any roads around here because they are narrow and our drivers aren't very well trained."
Ms. Lapham goes on to say that while she has not had a close brush, friends have, and she hears "a lot of anecdotal stories."
Well, I have had experiences and heard any number of "anecdotal stories" from my friends that would indicate that a goodly number of cyclists here in this area are not well trained, either. They are either ignorant of the rules of the road or arrogantly assume that said rules do not apply to them.
I often travel Lower Colfax Road, which is narrow, winding and has poor visibility. It is very popular with cyclists, and while I observe the speed limit, few people on bicycles do. They often, to my amazement, pass me going much faster than the legal limit and whiz on down the road in a cloud of dust.
Most of these two-wheel enthusiasts are also confused as to what part of the road they should use and apparently assume that it is all theirs. It is not unusual to round a blind corner and be confronted by a string of bikes in the middle of the road and perhaps on both sides. An issue on Lower Colfax and most roads here is the juxtaposition of light and shadow created by sunlight shining through trees alongside the road. This renders the cyclist virtually invisible to approaching drivers unless the rider is equipped with blinking lights. Very few riders appear to be aware of this fact.
Another area of confusion is stop signs. They do apply to bicycles, don't they? How many people believe that? Apparently some do not.
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I had stopped at a stop sign in Colfax early one morning when I observed a flock of cyclists approaching from the opposite direction. They were all nattily attired in bright colored spandex shirts and bicycle panties and those clackey shoes that somehow grip the pedals.
The gray hair and whiskers flapping beneath their cool shades and aerodynamically correct helmets indicated that they were old enough to know better, but never-the-less, they all blew right through the stop sign like pigeons in a parking lot. One even favored me with a big grin as he passed close enough for me to see the gnats stuck to his teeth.
I shook my finger at them (no, not that finger), but they ignored me.
In a similar incident, I had stopped at the east side of the four-way stop at Brunswick, Bennett and Greenhorn. From that side, visibility is limited up Greenhorn, so as usual, I eased carefully into the intersection, only to see a bicycle approaching at a high rate of speed. Not to worry. There was a big, fat red stop sign there; what part of stop would she not understand? All of it, it would seem.
As I stamped on the brake and said something that caused my passenger to scream, the young lady shot past the hood of my car, veered onto Brunswick in the wrong lane, corrected and continued merrily on toward Brunswick basin.
Had she hit my car, I am afraid I would have been found at fault, tried in the media and found guilty of a DWO (driving while old).
My personal favorite "anecdotal story" is the cyclist I saw cruising up South Auburn Street, happily yakking away on his cell phone. After all the shrieking about distracted drivers and the laws passed against using cell phones in cars, here he was, apparently oblivious to the fact that the law might just possibly apply to him, as well as to the little old lady whose car he was wobbling toward.
People on bicycles terrify me, as they do most of my contemporaries. No one wants to hurt or kill someone. People on bicycles are so vulnerable and yet some — not all, but some — seem bent on testing fate.
A large individual in, again, bicycle panties, once loftily informed me that he had the right to ride on a particularly dangerous road because "bicycles have the right-of-way."
I informed him that horses also have the right-of-way but I would certainly have better sense than to ride a horse on that road. He was unimpressed.
OK folks, here's the deal. In my 73-year sojourn on this planet, I have never had an accident, I have never hit anything, not even a mouse. I'd like to keep it that way. I want to get out of here with my car karma intact. I'm sure that even those drivers that Ms. Lapham judges to be "not very well trained" feel the same. They don't want an accident.
Please, those of you who cycle, do your part, keep yourselves safe and do pay attention to the rules. They apply to you, too.
Holly Irons lives in Grass Valley.