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Monday, August 30, 2010

Can't we all just get along?

From the CDA PRESS:

When I heard about the vehicle vs. bicycle collision that occurred Wednesday on
Government Way, I cringed.

First, for the obvious reason - there's a lot of heartache that can come from such a thing. I was also troubled because that driver could have been me. It almost was, a few times this summer.

Like most people, I find the thought terrifying.

At least four times since last spring, I've had to hit the brakes to narrowly avoid a bicyclist suddenly in my vehicle's path.

Each time, the pedals were being pushed by a teen or very young adult. That's good, because if they were seasoned motor vehicle drivers, I'd have to question whether they should have driver's licenses at all.

I'm not sure why anyone would think it's OK to shoot off a sidewalk into
the roadway in front of a moving vehicle, or fly off a curb into a crosswalk in
front of a vehicle moving 35 mph.

The young riders do it with heads held high, without flinching or looking both ways.

They cruise quickly, mindlessly and lawlessly into the road in front of me, as if in a trance - until they sense my car stopping. Then, they stop and look at me.

In three out of four cases, they've yelled, gestured or said something indicating I had done something wrong.

I was so relieved to avoid colliding with one backpack-wearing boy, that I must have smiled a bit.

"Yeah, real funny. You almost hit me," he screamed into my open car window, before riding away on two wheels.

This, after he shot off the curb in front of me at an intersection. How was this near-crash my fault?

I spent years living back East, developing the kinds of defensive driving skills you need in a place far more congested than North Idaho. I know there are a lot of you out there just like me. Maybe that's why we haven't had more tragedies here.

I'm generally one of the slowest drivers you'll ever meet. Never got a speeding
ticket, was never stopped for speeding. I don't take risks on the road. Yes, I'm
that lady at the stop sign or red light in front of you who won't move or turn
left until everybody is past. Maybe you've honked at me in frustration.

I don't expect other drivers with the right-of-way to stop or slow down
for me. I'd like the same kind of respect from others on the road, or the
sidewalk, whether they're behind the wheel or pushing pedals.

For bicyclists and motor vehicle drivers, attitude is a matter of life and death.

Perhaps the young bike riders I've encountered don't realize there are
state laws that apply to them?

It's right there under Idaho Title 49,
the state's Motor Vehicle Code, in Chapter 7:

"Every person operating a vehicle propelled by human power or riding a bicycle shall have all of the rights and all of the duties applicable to the driver of any other vehicle under the provisions of chapters 6 and 8 of this title."

Chapters 6 and 8 cover "Rules of the Road," and "Signs, Signals and Markings," and apply to motor vehicle drivers and cyclists.

The one big difference for bicyclists is what's often called the "Idaho Stop Law."

It's a cyclist-friendly part of the state's biking regulations that says it's legal for a bicyclist to cautiously roll through a stop sign without completely halting, and to proceed through a red light after stopping.

Simply put, if you're on a bicycle, you can treat a stop sign like a yield sign, and a red light like a stop sign.

Unfortunately, many people have the impression that bicyclists in Idaho
can legally sail through stop signs. Not so.

I like the bicycle "stop-as-yield" law. I haven't done much riding here in Idaho, but when I did, I often enjoyed cruising slowly through stop signs when no other traffic was present. I think I might have been breaking the law when I did that in other
states, which is silly.

I wouldn't want Idaho to change the bicycle stop law, but as the region and our roads keep becoming more heavily populated, we're going to have to work together to continue having such a friendly statute.

At this point, I'm so daunted by the possibility that a bicyclist will ride in front of me that I'm slowing down everywhere for everyone and everything.

I'm worried about our kids' safety, and I'm concerned for my emotional well-being. If I hit a bicyclist, even if it wasn't legally my fault, I don't know how I'd live with myself if the person were seriously injured or killed.

I hope the boy involved in Wednesday's crash is OK. The reports said it was a "low-speed collision," but the 14-year-old was taken to Kootenai Medical Center.

I don't know whose fault it was. A police investigation is taking place.

What I do know is, the crash caused anguish.

As school is getting ready to start up again, let's work together to avoid more of

Let's share the road like we're supposed to, and all work on being less cranky or cocky whether we're behind the wheel or pedaling along.

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