August 03, 2008
Bike rage

I sense an emerging meme here.

When gas prices surged above $4 per gallon earlier this year, it didn't take Nostradamus to predict that there would be a resultant rush to carbon-free commuting options--especially in a place like Portland, which is known for its ample network of bike lanes. Cyclists in "Stumptown" are spinning their spokes here in unprecedented numbers, trading in their fuel-guzzling SUVs for stylish 27-speeds.

But the cycling surge has created conflict, as the new breed of commuters bumps up against the old, oil-powered kind.

The cases cited all seem to involve alcohol, red-light running, or both, so I'd be a little hesitant to apply the trend label too quickly. That said, having more bicyclists on the street is sure to lead to more confrontations and accidents, as these new pedalers are likely to do things that experienced bikers don't, and as more drivers do stupid things because they find themselves stuck behind a slow-moving two-wheeler. No surprise, right?

I will say this: I see an awful lot of bike-riders in my neighborhood blithely zip through stop signs as if they weren't there. They'll usually slow down for red lights, but heading through if the coast is clear is also common. I don't know if they're ignorant of the fact that bicycles are in general subject to the same traffic laws as cars or if they're apathetic to it, but I know it annoys me every time I see this happen. I'm sympathetic to the notion that bikes need only slow down at stop signs rather than come to a full stop, but that's not what I see. That's a problem, and it will be a bigger problem the more bicyclists there are.

Posted by Charles Kuffner on August 03, 2008 to Planes, Trains, and Automobiles

Since most car drivers roll through stop signs without stopping, some without even slowing, the cyclist stopping at a stop sign ensures that he or she won't be struck or hit due to someone else's negiligence. That being said, I am in favor of a change in the law that would make stopping optional for bicycles if there is NO APPROACHING TRAFFIC WITHIN 100 YARDS.

I have heard that there are more Inner Loop cycle commuters. We haven't seen an uptick in requests for BikeHouston cycling training classes. It seems people "don't know what they don't know". There are lots of things to know about bicycling in a complex urban environment! But people are going to learn via the School of Hard Knocks. Our 9-hour training class can shave probably about 5-10 years off of the natural unassisted learning period, a period when the rider is exposed to greatly increased risk, especially during the first 90 days.

I think this problem will solve itself. In 2011-2012 (2015 at the latest), we have have an oil price spike which will put gasoline in the $8-10 per gallon range. Motor traffic will decline significantly, and it will slow. Things will be better for bikes.

BTW, no increase in bicycle use in the suburbs. Sheeple still obeying their corporate masters: "SHUT UP AND PAY, DAMNIT!"

Posted by: Peter Wang on August 3, 2008 9:23 AM

I'm kind of stunned by the cyclists who not only don't stop, but fly right through without looking to see if there's traffic (& often have headphones on).

My general observation is that 90% of drivers don't obey the rules, 90% of cyclists don't, and 90% of pedestrians don't. The big issue is that in a collision, regardless of fault, the car is going to "win."

And even when the cyclist is totally in the right and a driver is at fault - not much consolation when you're hit and injured or killed, is it?

Posted by: John on August 3, 2008 10:26 AM
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