Tehee: Remember to share the road with bicyclists

The Fresno BeeApril 30, 2014 

As a bicycle commuter, there are few things as patronizing and/or as annoying as a honking motorist, though a close second might be the driver who leans out the window at a stoplight to give you a verbal warning.

"You're going to get hit by a car if you keep riding in the middle of the road like that."

Note to drivers: The right side of the slow lane is not the middle of the road.

Some drivers (I encountered one on my ride home a few weeks back), will do both. It's all the more annoying when they turn out to be right, and you do get hit.

Technically, the car didn't hit me. I hit the car, which flipped a U-turn in front of me, giving me no time to avoid the crash. I did have time to jump from my bike and roll on to a soft(ish) patch of (thankfully well placed) grass.

I was fine. The bike was fine. The car had a slight dent.

The two stories offer some key insight and reminders for the start of National Bike Month, which lasts through May.

-- Bicycling can be dangerous.

-- It can also can be contentious.

Hard-core cyclists and their automobile counterparts often devolve any conversation of sharing the road into us-vs.-them rhetoric.

Drivers berate bicyclists for being nuisances (at best) and hazards (at worst). They think (and are often quick to verbalize) that bikes don't belong on streets. What cyclist hasn't heard a passing motorist yell, "Get off the road?"

Cyclists, in turn, often view drivers as dangerous Neanderthals who give no regard to anything without four wheels and an engine.

The simple fact is cars and bikes must share the roads.

By law, bicyclists are considered vehicle operators and are required to obey rules, which includes traffic signs, signals and lane markings. When on the street, bicyclists must ride in the same direction as traffic. (If you own a bicycle, write that one down, please. It's the thing I see most often from bicyclists.) And a new law kicks in Sept. 16 — AB1371, the Three Feet for Safety Act, which seeks to improve rider safety by mandating the amount of space needed for a car to pass a cyclist. It's 3 feet if you can't guess by the name.

Of course, the laws don't change the fact that bicyclists are vulnerable and riders need to take responsibility for their safety. That means having reflectors and lights for night riding. It means obeying the rules of the road and speaking up when you see cyclists who don't.

It also means asserting our right to ride on the street.

Yes, there are bicycles and pedestrian paths that cyclists can use, but understand that not everyone rides for the same reason. While some see cycling as exercise, or a passion, or even a political statement, for others, it's simply the best form of transportation available.

A bike path won't get you to work. A citywide system of interconnected bike lanes might, but while Fresno struggles to implement such a system, we have to deal with what we have, which means riders have to be more responsible, drivers more aware. Both could use a bit more empathy.

I understand the frustration (and fear) some drivers experience having to share the road with bicyclists. It's no excuse to keep bicycles off the road.

This columnist can be reached at (559) 441-6479, jtehee@fresnobee.com or @joshuatehee on Twitter and Instagram. Read his blog at www.fresnobeehive.com

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