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Risk everywhere when bikes, autos share the road

Original post made by Renee Batti, associate editor of The Almanac, on Jan 31, 2007

The following letter by Bruce Campbell was published in the Almanac's Jan. 31 print edition:

Sailboats have the right of way over powerboats, but most sailboat owners do not challenge freighters or tankers in the shipping lanes. In a collision between two objects of vastly disproportionate size, the smaller one invariably loses.
Now that Dr. Greg Wright has enlightened me (Almanac Jan. 17) I know that Old La Honda Road is called the Alpe d'Huez (the steepest part of the Tour de France) of Portola Valley. He should be advised that the road is barely lanes wide with no shoulders.
If there is a vehicle coming uphill toward a blind curve, and one heading downhill toward the same curve, and a pace line or peloton of bicyclists heading into the same blind curve, we have all the makings of a serious injury accident.
As I read the letters and editorial on this conflict, I have come to realize that the bicyclists are willing to assume the risk to "do what they do." "Can't we all just get along" is not a solution to a physics problem. Posting share the road signs doesn't solve the problem either. If the government wants public safety it will have to do so by creating wider roads with bike lanes, or roads restricted to bicycle traffic. It should do so by licensing and taxing bicycles to pay for these facilities.
Even where there are bike lanes and the cyclists use them there is still risk from vehicles, as the recent collision on Sand Hill Road illustrates. One of the references cited in a Jan. 24 Almanac letter quotes the Web site of Rich Swents, who is an instructor certified by the League of American Bicyclists. He says that "47 percent of car-bike collisions are due to bicyclists making one of the following errors," which include wrong way riding, left turns from the right lane, riding out of a driveway, failure to yield, at a stop sign, for example, and a sudden swerve.
Both motorists and cyclists can be the cause of these incidents. Remember, share the road also means share the risk.
Bruce Campbell
Santa Maria Avenue, Portola Valley

Comments (2)

Posted by Can't we all just get along?
a resident of Menlo Park: Stanford Weekend Acres
on Feb 2, 2007 at 3:25 pm

Sharing the road with bicycles may be aggravating or frightening to some drivers, but in this debate, no one seems to be paying attention to the benefits that we, as a society, derive when people choose to ride bicycles.

The obvious benefits to us all are that bicycles produce no exhaust fumes. They also don't cause wear and tear on our roads. (Roads that are supported by our tax dollars regardless of whether we drive or not. Roads that are, by legal definition, bicycle facilities.)

Another boon is the health benefits of riding.

When people exercise they reduce their risk of health problems that strain our health care system and add to its high cost. It's not a panacea, but think of the reduction in obesity and its related disorders if people who could bike to work, did so.

The sailboats vs. tankers argument worries me, because it smacks of a "bicyclists are asking for it" mentality.

I wonder if the comments would have the same tenor if someone was horribly injured in a Mini vs. Hummer accident. "A tiny, light-weight car shouldn't be on the road with heavier vehicles. The driver should have known better."

Posted by citizen A
a resident of Woodside: Mountain Home Road
on Feb 3, 2007 at 1:31 pm

While I do agree that health benefits of bike riding are clear, it is irrelevant to the discussion that bikes should be on the same roads as cars. There are plenty of ways to be healthy and exercise that have nothing to do with roads or cars.

Most roads are build for the transport of cars and other vehicles that can maintain a certain set of characteristics of safety, speed, and handling characteristics. Vehicles (including bicycles) that use them should fit into that profile to be legally allowed on those roads.

The health question is a ridiculous and irrelevant point. Should bicycles be used on freeways and highways? Just because they promote "health" and don't create exhaust? Of course not.

If bicyclists want to use roads, that's totally ok. As long as they are fit into the driving profile of that road.

The suggestion of more bike paths is a great one. And bicyclists should also carry some level of insurance in case they injure someone else like a pedestrian.

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