Monday, March 21, 2011

What's the biggest misconception about transportation cycling?

In light of the Dispatch article today on bikes and cars mixing on the road, I thought that I'd open things up to a little different tact today. I already wrote up a critique of the article on Examiner, but over here we can get a bit more personal and less formal.

The article brought up a lot of great points about cyclists and motorists not knowing the traffic laws (and looking at the comments on the web version of the article, that condition is rampant from the motorists' side) and I agree wholeheartedly with all that.  And I was a bit distressed at some of the lack of detail given to certain points - like controlling the lane and getting the two-abreast law completely wrong.

But to bring up the notion of minimum speed limit was great.  That was a big plus - and hopefully it'll open the eyes of a few people.

So let's discuss it:  what are the biggest misconceptions YOU think both cyclists and motorists have about operating on the road?

People, not speed.

7 comments:

  1. Jamie, Biggest misconception on a driver point of view is that bicycles belong on the sidewalk and not on the street. On the bicyclist point is that the laws for cars are not the same for a cyclist. Both drivers and cyclists need to be more informed/educated on the rules of the road.
    Correct me if I am wrong but in Ohio, cyclists can ride two abreast in a lane as long as it does not implede the traffic flow. Otherwise need to ride single file. Article stated that is was illegal.

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  2. Agree on both misconceptions, Jeff. Both of those are among the big sticking points and both are obviously incorrect.

    The law on two-abreast riding is on the Ohio Bike Federation page, but I'll restate it here. (with comments from the OBF)

    § 4511.55. Operating bicycles and motorcycles on roadway.
    (A) Every person operating a bicycle upon a roadway shall ride as near to the right side of the roadway as practicable obeying all traffic rules applicable to vehicles and exercising due care when passing a standing vehicle or one proceeding in the same direction.

    (B) Persons riding bicycles or motorcycles upon a roadway shall ride not more than two abreast in a single lane, except on paths or parts of roadways set aside for the exclusive use of bicycles or motorcycles.

    (C) This section does not require a person operating a bicycle to ride at the edge of the roadway when it is unreasonable or unsafe to do so. Conditions that may require riding away from the edge of the roadway include when necessary to avoid fixed or moving objects, parked or moving vehicles, surface hazards, or if it otherwise is unsafe or impracticable to do so, including if the lane is too narrow for the bicycle and an overtaking vehicle to travel safely side by side within the lane.

    Comment: Section 4511.55(A) is very often misquoted to say that cyclists are required to ride as near as possible to the curb. The new paragraph (C) should help reduce this confusion. There are many conditions where it is much safer to ride near the middle of the lane. It is not practicable (practice-able) to ride on the far right when passing or turning left; or when avoiding objects, parked cars, moving vehicles, pedestrians, animals, surface or other hazards; or when the travel lane is too narrow for a bicycle and another vehicle to pass safely side by side within the lane.

    Many motorists are reluctant to cross a lane line when passing a bicycle. A cyclist who "hugs the curb" unintentionally invites motorists to pass with unsafe clearance. Riding near the middle of a narrow lane helps overtaking motorists realize that they must must use the next lane to pass.

    The real purpose of this law is to prevent unnecessary delay to faster traffic. Since the law cannot require unsafe operation, the phrase as close as practicable is highly flexible, varying widely according to conditions. Positions well away from the edge of the road can be in compliance.

    Section 4511.55(B) allows riding two abreast. However, cyclists should avoid unnecessary delay to other traffic. Please be courteous and "single up" when other drivers wish to pass if such passing is safe and reasonable. There is no violation if any of the following apply: (1) If there is no traffic being delayed; (2) If the cyclists are traveling as fast as other traffic; (3) If traffic can reasonably pass by using another lane; (4) If the lane is too narrow or it is otherwise unsafe for passing.

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  3. Probably the most common thing I hear is the idea that a cyclist has to go the speed limit or else should not be on the road. I was glad to see the Dispatch handle that one.

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  4. Indeed, Rob. Trotwood vs. Selz set it straight, real quickly and succinctly.

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  5. From my daily bike-commuting, the greatest misperception is how marked crossings are to be observed. And lawyers admit that the crossings are in a gray area regarding on-the-saddle cyclists.
    Ohio law takes pains to allow a pedestrian right-of-way once the pedestrian steps into the crosswalk. The law also takes pains to avoid a pedestrian claiming right-of-way without allowing a reasonable distance for a vehicle to stop.
    However, crosswalks for bikeways are not specifically addressed in Ohio traffic law. The clearest use of a crosswalk by a cyclist is to dismount and cross.

    Nonetheless, in the 8 marked crosswalks I use twice a day, fewer than 10% of drivers stop to allow my crossing. More than 60% of drivers seem oblivious that the crossing is even present. A good 30% of drivers exhibit some animosity that a cyclist might even consider crossing a road.

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  6. Interesting, Tom. I'd never considered that problem as I never commute on bike paths, but I know a couple of places in Columbus where that's an issue. My understanding of the law is that crosswalks are considered an extension of the sidewalk, but obviously you're referring to crosswalks on bike paths.

    So would that mean that those crosswalks are extensions of a bike path - where you have the right to ride instead of walking your bike? Or are all crosswalks considered sidewalks, where you should walk your bike (as it's illegal to ride on the sidewalk in Columbus)?

    Either way, a crosswalk IS something that drivers are supposed to stop for if there's traffic in them. Period. But if you are riding on the crosswalk (from a bike path) it's sort of the same safety issue that is a major reason for denying cyclists the right to ride on the sidewalks - faster speeds and drivers having less time to react to a cyclist suddenly appearing in a crosswalk .

    My answer would be that all bike path crosswalks need signals, like any road. But that's not likely to happen any time soon. Truly a conundrum on this one.

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  7. Just to note something about the whole bikers on the sidewalk idea, sure it's technically illegal but I'm willing to take that risk at certain times of day. For instance, on most days after work I'll ride a mile west to hop on the O. trail and go north to make it home. But there are those long grueling days where the 4 extra miles seems a bit dreadful. It's much safer for me to ride on the sidewalk on certain parts of high st./north 4th than it is to ride in the street.
    Maybe I'm just not courageous enough to fight for our equal road rights all the time...but it's so easy to lose your life on a bike these days.

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