Disptach: Bike riders want share of streets

In preview of tonight's Ride of Silence, the Columbus Dispatch printed an article today underscoring some of the issues we as cyclists face each day on the road.

I dislike the title of the article a bit, but the content is good. I'd like to see more articles start with the fact that cyclists do in fact belong in the road, not as if we're trying to eke out our little part of it. That's what I see when I read titles like "Bike riders want share of streets." A better title would be "Bike riders belong in streets, too."
Bike riders want share of streets
Organizers expect 500 cyclists to gather Wednesday for 'Ride of Silence'
Tuesday, May 19, 2009 9:47 PM
By Bill Bush

It was Monday morning on Bike to Work Week, and Columbus Mayor Michael B. Coleman was leading a convoy of cyclists to Ohio State University to publicize a "Share the Road" safety campaign.

About 4 miles away, Jeff Packard was trying to ride from his home near Northland to his graphic-design job Downtown.

His trip, which was inspired by the campaign, didn't turn out so well.

Packard had made it barely a mile when an impatient motorist sped past him in a turn lane onto Indianola Avenue, coming inches from brushing him off his bike.

Packard confronted the motorist as the two sat at a red light moments later. He told the driver through his closed passenger window that he needs to share the road, prompting the driver to get out of the van.

"He comes up to me, inches away from my face, and starts yelling that I shouldn't be on the road; bikes should be on the sidewalk," Packard said.

The driver then slapped Packard on the back of the head and drove off.

Packard was wearing a helmet and wasn't injured, but he was so angered that he contacted Columbus police. Now the city attorney's office is trying to use the license plate to identify the driver and possibly bring charges.

Packard's story is a common one among bicyclists, said Jeff Stephens, an organizer of Wednesday's "Ride of Silence" to raise awareness of the cyclists injured or killed by motor vehicles.

"I guarantee you, of the 500 cyclists we assemble, if you ask them, 'Have you ever been yelled at out of a car or felt threatened or harassed?' every single one of them will raise their hand," said Stephens, who also is chairman of Columbus' Transportation and Pedestrian Commission.

Packard, 39, was performing a "perfectly legal maneuver" in trying to get into the left-turn lane, and the motorist's contention is simply wrong: It's illegal for most bicyclists to use sidewalks in Columbus, Stephens said. (Children on small bikes are an exception.)

The Ride of Silence will begin at the Statehouse at 6:45 p.m. and go 12 miles through Downtown to Ohio State University, and then back to City Hall.

Similar rides will be held at hundreds of locations around the globe, Stephens said. The event began in Dallas after a cyclist was struck in the head and killed by the side mirror of a passing bus in 2003.

Packard said the incident on his May 11 ride isn't going to stop him from occasionally biking to work, but he's amazed that he was almost struck by a vehicle and then assaulted "at the same time that the mayor was advocating bike safety."

As Packard continued his ride to work that day, he saw Coleman's convoy pedaling down High Street - with a police escort.

He could have used one that morning, too, he said.

People, not speed.