Anyone who thinks the roads are for cyclists, needs to have their heads examined.
It’s true the League of American Bicyclists (started in 1880 as the League of American Wheelmen) led the movement to get roads improved and paved for cyclists long before cars were invented.
But, today, everyone knows roads are for cars, trucks, and motorcycles, not bicycles. Most modern roads, especially in this country, are designed with motor traffic in mind, not human-powered transport on feet and wheels.
I’m reminded of this every time a car cuts me off, yells obscenities at me, or fails to stop for me at a crosswalk. I can tell they think I’m crazy using “their” roads.
But, here’s the rub — it’s my road, too. I pay taxes, and even drive and register a car. Even if I didn’t, I know my rights to the roadway and the responsibilities for using it.
The law defines my bicycle as a “vehicle” with all the same rights to most roadways as other vehicles. The “rules of the road” apply to me, too. I have to follow the same laws as motorized traffic.
All we vehicle users are supposed to “share the road.”
Sounds nice, doesn’t it? We’ll all live and travel the roads in complete peace and harmony. Maybe in Nirvana, but not in reality.
Many drivers don’t know the law, do not believe we should be on their roads, and don’t know what to do with us when they encounter us.
These issues with “shared” road use also affect pedestrians. Not all road users have wheels — people of all ages walk and run on roads.
They need to feel safe there, too. When they cross roads to get to schools, businesses or other destinations, all vehicle drivers — even bicyclists — need to watch out for them and stop to let them cross safely.
I bring up these issues of shared road use and safety because of two accidents I read about in the paper last week.
A League of American Bicyclists email newsletter I received this week cemented my desire to address them. A second email from active.com/cycling, prompted me to offer solutions for cyclist wanting to ride the roads.
On Monday, June 10, around 3 p.m., a cyclist riding on Route 41 North of Ossipee Lake Road, was struck from behind by a motor vehicle. The cyclist and her bike flipped over. The driver didn’t stop.
The cyclist ended up with a broken collarbone, an open fracture on her left leg and road rash. Fortunately, other motorists in the area stopped to help her, and she was transported to the hospital where she had surgery. She will be unable to work for six to eight weeks.
I saw the photos of the accident scene. The cyclist was obviously riding on the right, as she should. She had a bright, fluorescent shirt on, making her very visible.
She was wearing a helmet, which probably saved her from more serious head injuries. She had been thrown several feet from her bike and the bike had been flipped around in the opposite direction by the force of the hit. It was the middle of the day — visibility was good.
The only clue to why this accident may have happened is the narrowness of the road and almost nonexistent breakdown lane and soft shoulder. An inattentive or distracted driver may not have realized how close they were to the rider.
By law, the driver should have given her 3 feet of space before passing her. Obviously, if the large passenger side mirror hit her in the shoulder, he had not given her that space. He should have waited to pass her until there was enough room to do so safely. If he realized he’s hit her, he should have stopped to help.
On Thursday, June 13, in Meredith, around 3:50 p.m. on a rainy day, a pedestrian using a crosswalk on Main Street was hit and seriously injured by a SUV. The driver of the SUV immediately stopped and stayed at the scene. The woman suffered a severe head injury and was transported to the hospital. She later died of her injuries.
In this case, it’s not clear who was at fault. It was rainy, the street is narrow, and parked cars may have obstructed driver and/or pedestrian lines of sight.
It just shows how careful both drivers and pedestrians have to be in looking out for each other at road crossings.
The League of American Bicyclists newsletter topic was, “America needs SAFE Streets,” written by Caron Whitaker, league vice president for government relations.
She cites a League of American Bicyclists 2018 Benchmarking Report that “highlighted the public health crisis happening on our roads: nearly one in every five people who die in crashes with motor vehicles was biking, walking or using a mobility device like a wheelchair.
Yet, despite this scary statistic of 18 percent of traffic fatalities for these road users, states report allocating “less than 1 percent of their federal safety funds on improving safety outcomes for pedestrians and bicyclists.”
Whitaker advocates matching spending on pedestrian and bicycle safety measures to the amount of risk they face on our streets.
She urges citizens to ask their Members of Congress to co-sponsor HR 3040, the SAFE Streets Act. This act would “target funding towards safety improvements in areas where the lives of people who bike and walk are most in danger.”
A press release written about this 2018 report by Lauren Jenkins, League of American Bicyclists communications director, in February 2019, mentions “in 2019, with the rates of chronic diseases like obesity and diabetes rising and roads get deadlier for pedestrians and cyclists, the real solutions for better infrastructure … are found in the Bicycle Friendly Communities and states where more people are biking and walking, and fewer bicyclists and pedestrians are dying.”
The League of American Bicyclists has a program for creating bicycle friendly communities that I’ll discuss later in a follow-up article.
4. I subscribe to active.com. It sends me tips for runners and cyclists. A day after I received the League of American Bicyclists report, I received this: “10 Cycling Etiquette Tips When Sharing the Road with Drivers” by Michel Nystrom (tinyurl.com/y2zkqjb9). It was apropos to this discussion about cyclist’s safety on the road.
I particularly liked this quote: “Sharing the road with cars can be dangerous, but there are things to help you protect yourself and foster a healthier relationship between motorists and cyclists. While you can’t control other drivers’ actions, you can control how you ride and conduct yourself on the road.”
I couldn’t have said it better. As a bicyclist, you are legally considered to be the operator of a vehicle. Yes, riding on roads can be scary and dangerous, but you can learn and practice ways to make yourself safer and more predictable. You can earn the respect of motorists by knowing what to do and making clear your intentions. You can also make rational decisions about where to ride and when to maximize your safety.
Next week, I’ll explore what cyclists and pedestrians can do or advocate for to make the roads safer for them. Stay tuned to Part 2: What You Can Do to Stay Safe on the Road.
Ride safe. Summer’s here!
Summer Cycling Events
June 26 (Wednesday): Trails End “Cone for a Cause” to benefit Mount Washington Valley Bicycling Club. Buy a cone at Trails End in Intervale (noon-9 p.m.). Part of proceeds will go to the bike club. Join the “Cone for a Cause Bike Ride” sponsored by the club and get some exercise before you buy your treats. The ride starts at Scenic Vista at 10 a.m. and finishes at Trails End with a cone.
June 28-30 (Friday-Sunday): NEMBAFest, Kingdom Trails, East Burke,Vt. Lots of rides, vendors, and activities for mountain bikers.
July 9-Aug. 27 (Tuesdays): Great Glen Trails Mason and Mason Insurance Mountain Bike Race Series, 3:30-7 p.m., for all ages. Choose a distance, course, and time that suits you and have some fun riding the Great Glen Trails.
July 13 (Saturday): Tour de Borderlands — Stop No. 4 — Mahoosuc Pathways, Bethel, Maine, 10 a.m.-2 p.m. Ride free or ride with barbecue, $20. For details, go to bethelmaine.com/events/details/tour-de-borderlands-stop-4-12246.
July 20 (Saturday): MWV Bicycling Club Mid-Summer Ride and Social. Choice of four rides of 13, 30, 40 or 50 miles. Meet at Twin Mountain Gazebo at 9 a.m.. Following rides, at 4 a.m., barbecue at Steve Blum’s house in Bartlett. For information, go to: mwvbicyclingclub.org/index.php/special-events/byob3-3040half-century-ride-bbq.