QUESTION: Does bike rider courtesy lead to safer roads for cyclists?
I don’t track cyclist fatalities in Orange County, California, but I was prompted to do a quick survey. Here’s what I’ve found (with help from Biking In LA). (And please stay tuned: there’s a point to this list…)
This is not a scientific sampling of the roughly 80 cyclist fatalities reported in Orange County over the past five years, but we have an idea of the flavor: mostly motorist at fault and a few where the cyclist contributed. There are a couple of club roadies, but most of the fatalities seem to be “folk” cyclists.
So I’m puzzled when avid cyclist David Whiting points at a roomful of club riders and tells them “cyclists need to clean up their act” before we’re ready to focus on driver safety. Because, after all, when “packs [of cyclists] block streets, they scare the bejeebers out of drivers.”
I’m sure the monster truck driver was terrified of the little nine year old he crushed on the road.
I’m a big believer in being responsible for my own safety. There are certainly actions we can take to reduce the risk of crashing and dying. We as cyclists should be courteous, and we should share the road by riding legally, but pelotons of cyclists hogging the road and blowing stop signs is not a bike safety issue in Orange County or anywhere else. Will single file riding do anything to prevent cyclist fatalities in Orange County? Should a bike club really suspend membership for rolling a stop sign, which is something that 97% of motorists are also guilty of? Can we also call on the AAA to suspend benefits for their members who are observed violating the rules of the road and not exercising common courtesy on the road?
Mr. Whiting (the author of this piece) is a nice guy, I like him, and I appreciate what he’s trying to do regarding road etiquette. I really think he has the wrong focus, however, on cyclist safety. The handful of times I’ve been hit by a car, I was always riding lawfully on a properly equipped bicycle. The two times I’ve been hit at night, I had plenty of lights and reflectors. My only sin, perhaps, is too much courtesy on my part: The two times I’ve been hooked maybe could have been avoided if I was a little more assertive in my lane positioning.
Your thoughts on this?