Thursday, August 21, 2008


It's always lovely when a favorite tool of a group is turned against that group. The group tends neither to get the irony or think the reverse tactic is funny.
So it is with bicyclists in San Francisco. A "local gadfly," as the Wall Street Journal called him yesterday, Rob Anderson, wants an environmental impact review of a bike plan that was 527 pages when unveiled in 2004. The Economist has an article in the August 2 issue surveying conflict between cyclists and the rest of the world.
My sympathies are with Mr. Anderson. To overstate, bicyclists are about as sanctimonious holier-than-thou bunch as there is. Further, and this is just a hunch, I suspect that cyclists are a tiny minority that is heavily subsidized by the rest of us. Yes, I do have a bicycle, which I ride mostly for exercise and once in a great while to get somewhere. Fear is one reason I don't ride more. That fear stems, in part, from two motorcycle accidents. Bicycles are even more vulnerable than motorcycles. Sure, I'm damning the civil majority for the unseemly behavior of some, but too bad.
First, remember that bicycle riders are bound by the rules of the road, just like any other driver. That means stopping at stop signs, signaling and other boring stuff. A bicyclist also is entirely justified in riding down the middle of a lane, however slowly, not that this is exactly smart.
I've noted a few incidents of cyclist behavior that leaves me wondering about the mix of arrogance and stupidity. Just in general, there is the common problem of being unable to see bicyclists at twilight or at night, much less during the day when a cyclist doesn't exactly stand out unless wearing a bright vest. Here are some specifics. Also in general, for cyclists, stop signs and lights are a matter of convenience and signals of intent are seldom.
* The arterial near my house has a wide, asphalt-covered median that is the same level as the street. A vest-wearing cyclist was in the median maintaining just enough momentum so as to not be required to put a foot down. Having no idea what he might do, I slowed as I drove by. In any case, the median is a dumb place for bicycle tires because it is home all the glass, nails and screws flipped from the roadway.
* Three cyclists, riding in a triangle formation. One was outside the bike lane. Cars sometimes travel 55 mph in this 40 mph zone.
* At night, on an arterial, a cyclist dressed in dark clothing is riding on the sidewalk. A parked car blocked the sidewalk. The cyclist quickly swerved around the car, which meant the cyclist swerved into the street, out of nowhere and into view of the driver of a following car. The driver hit the brakes, wondering what the cyclist might do next. There were no signals from the cyclist.
* The cyclist, heading west on an arterial in a 40 mph zone, takes a quick look over the shoulder and with no further signal, turns left, swerving across two lanes.
There is a practice of turning four-lane street too narrow for a bike lane into one with two driving lanes, a center turning lane and bike lanes. I suspect this cuts the vehicle capacity. Until I see credible numbers to the contrary, I'll stay with the position that in addition to being sanctimonious, cyclists are pro pollution and, therefore, pro global warming.

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