Featuring the story of one Mari Welch, the Ashland Daily Tidings ran an article today promoting upcoming legal clinics regarding bicycling and walking, as well as listing the rules of the road that pertain to people who ride bicycles. Check out the full article here.
Having been in a car-bicycle accident myself I can commiserate with Mari, who was struck by a truck pulling out of the Ashland Shopping Center and then dragged onto the street. Being struck by a car period is terribly traumatizing and horrific and I would not wish it on anyone. The article states that Mari would have been at fault, had the police wanted to issue a ticket; this is both good to know and rather unfortunate. As an equal user of a public road, people who ride bicycles should know the rules that apply to them—though we often don’t. Mari was riding in the bicycle lane going against the flow of traffic which isn’t actually illegal in and of itself, but apparently APD could have cited her for “failure to observe a one-way, or for failing to bike in the right most lane of her direction of travel,” according to Sgt. O’Meara. Wait, huh?
According to a lawyer, she wasn’t doing anything inherently “illegal”, though according to a police officer, she was. Weird.
In the Tidings article they list “Bicycle Laws”, which includes this gem:
Bicyclists may ride on a sidewalk, but must give an audible warning before overtaking and passing a pedestrian on the sidewalk, cannot bike in a careless manner that would endanger people or property, and cannot suddenly leave the curb and move into a vehicle path. (Bicyclists are not allowed on sidewalks in downtown Ashland or Medford.)
Hmm . . . weird. So let me see if I get this—bikes are allowed on sidewalks, but must yell at pedestrians before passing, can’t swerve to avoid pedestrians who have headphones on and can’t hear us, and can’t leave the curb to rejoin traffic on the street. Oh, and bikes actually aren’t allowed on sidewalks downtown, but bikes are allowed on sidewalks. Just not downtown.
What clarity! So much logical sense! What if we use the same idea and apply it to cars?
Automobiles may travel at any speed they wish, but cannot travel at recklessly high speeds and must honk at other cars and road users before passing. Automobiles cannot travel at any speed they wish on A street, Harmony Lane, in the Wendy’s drive-thru, or on Siskiyou.
Obviously we can’t write automobile laws this way; that wouldn’t make any sense. However, while cars exist in a very defined role on roadways, bicycles are more chameleon-like in a sense. They may behave like cars at times, following the rules of the road and going with the flow of traffic. Other times they behave more like pedestrians by using crosswalks and sidewalks, and by not obeying stoplights like it’s the law. This makes things tricky . . .
I’ve been in a car and experienced the upset at a cyclist who flaunts the rules and blows a stop sign, or hops onto the sidewalk to skirt a line of traffic. I’ve also been on a bike and sat at a red light for literally 10 minutes and finally decided to run it. I’ve hopped up onto the sidewalk when bike lanes magically “disappear” with no indication of why or where to go. When you take me out of a car, I am a human being; when you take me off my bike, I am a human being.
What are you?
Why do roads exist? To get us places. Do any of us “own” them? Not really. One could argue that we all do because of the taxes we pay to afford them, but this misses the point. No one person owns the road—driver, bicycle rider, pedestrian, longboarder, runner, etc. We all share them and we all share them with the hopes of not getting killed while we use them. I would say that roads actually own us to a certain extent—to the extent that we let them. Perhaps it’s part of being an American and wanting that ol’ American Dream (owning a bunch of stuff and things), but many road users seem to have a sense of ownership of the road. If I am in a car then I own the road, damnit. If I’m on a bike then I own my damn life, damnit. A sense of entitlement leads to a feeling of ownership, which then breeds a me vs. you mentality. Roads were made for cars, right? So bikes can stick to the sidewalk where they belong. Bikes don’t protect you like a car, right? So car drivers can watch the fuck out for us and, well, damn them if they mess up and hit me. It’s not my job to drive defensively for them.
These arguments don’t work. It’s not you vs. me; nor is it me vs. you. You know what it could be, though? I see you and you see me. Not as individual road users doomed to a life of strife and rage/fear-fueled interactions, but as humans who sometimes slow down for each other and are occasionally nice to one another.
- It sucks to be buzzed by a distracted, ignorant, or mean driver.
- It sucks to be stuck behind the wheel of a car at a red light and watch a biker blow through it.
- It sucks to use a mode of transportation that is inherently more dangerous.
- It sucks to hear a biker whine about being so exposed and feeling like they are in danger at all times.
- It sucks to tell a biker to stay off the roads if they’re so dangerous.
- It sucks that there is no easy answer to this right now and that there probably won’t ever be.
- It wouldn’t suck to remember that we’re all trying to get around and not die.
- It wouldn’t suck to take a deep breath every now and then.
- It wouldn’t suck to take a look at the person next to you and remember that you aren’t the only one in this world.
- It wouldn’t suck if we had better bicycle laws.
- It wouldn’t suck if we had better bicycle education.
- It wouldn’t suck if we all tried a bit harder to get along until the world changes for the better for good.