Monday, September 19, 2011

Dr. Gridlock chat (9-19-11)

As a public service, below are bicycle-related comments/questions issued to Robert Thomson on his Monday midday Dr. Gridlock chat on the Washington Post website, unedited.

This week, two comments about bicycling - "Why share Beach Drive when trail is right there" and "Bicyclists don't follow the rules"...

Feel free to post your thoughts.

I want to share the road, really I do
Question. but here's my question: is it okay for drivers to be even slightly annoyed when bikers ride on Rock Creek Parkway (Beach Drive) when there is a bike path just steps away? The parkway is a one-lane, winding road with no shoulder. Frankly, it's dangerous to come around a curve to traffic that is stopped due to a biker on the road. I mean, shouldn't cyclists be required to use the bike path when one is available? I think everyone needs to strike a balance in these situations.

Answer. Robert Thomson -  Bikers aren't required to use the path, and I know what they say about the trail: That it's in no condition to handle modern bike traffic and is at least as dangerous for cyclists as riding on the parkway.

Sharing the parkways is certainly an issue. The park service recently restated the often-ignored ban in cycling on the George Washington and Clara Barton Parkways. I've done several Dr. Gridlock columns presenting exchanges of views on this. Here's a link to one.

"Share the Road" -- With Rules

Question. Dear Dr. "G"-- I'm happy to "share the road" with cyclists, IF they follow the rules. But when they whiz dangerously past me on the right when I'm properly stopped at a red light, and then they do a "fake-right-turn, fake-U-turn, fake-right-turn" maneuver at the crossroads to run the red light that I am stopped at, and then they glide on, blocking the road beyond the intersection when the light changes, I wonder who is sharing what with whom? If this cyclist had been in an auto, "road rage" would be the term for her/his behavior. "Share the road" can work, but we need rules. To be allowed on public roads, all bicycles should be required to have officially-issued licenses and large legible license plates. They should have warning bells and should use them whenever overtaking autos or pedestrians. The cycles and their riders should have lights and bright reflective markings at night. And they should operate on the public roads by the same rules as motor vehicles - including not cheating at lights and turns. Funny -- in the small town I grew up in, this was all required sixty years ago. "Share the road" can work. But it will NOT work if the cyclists want it all their own way. Alongside the President, I am an optimist -- but my optimism is so far a hope, not a reality. Cyclists, WABA, all -- hey, folks, be positive and do your share. Help set some rules -- visible, enforceable rules -- so the bad actors with two wheels can be identified, and the rest of the pedalers don't suffer. Thanks.

Answer. Robert Thomson - As I know the folks at WABA would say, cyclists are required to obey the same laws as drivers when they're on the public roads.

Like you and many other travelers, I've seen cyclists ignore those laws, especially at intersections. In fact, I'm surprised at your description of the elaborate technique for getting through the intersection. More often, the cyclists I see just blow the stop sign clean and ride straight across.

But to me, the bottom line is that if you believe in sharing the road, you share the road. You don't decide that one category of traveler is the official representative for the entire category and if that person violated the rules than no one else in that category is entitled to courtesy.