Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Letter: Bicyclists should ride facing traffic

The following letter to the editor was published in the Arizona Republic Jun. 1, 2010, under the heading "Bicyclists should ride facing traffic":
Once again, it has happened - another bicyclist run down. This time an 8-year-old girl is in serious condition.

I want to know why the law hasn't been changed to have bicyclists ride facing traffic so at least they can see if the car is being driven erratically, giving them a chance to avoid being hit. This type of accident will surely increase as warm weather approaches. I have lived here since 1959 and come from a state where this has always been the law - and I don't remember any bicyclist being hit there.
This letter, of course, shows a profound misunderstanding of traffic safety, so Gene Holmerud, our VP of education, penned a short response letter that was published June 7:
Regarding Ms. Hilliard's letter "Bicyclists should ride facing traffic".

I am glad for the writer's concern for the safety of cyclists and desire for cycling to be a legitimate mode of transportation in our state. The latest comprehensive study of bicycle crash and injury incidents shows only one-third involve a motor vehicle. Of those incidents that do involve a motor vehicle, the largest single category of causes is the error of riding against traffic, nearly five times the motorists' error of being hit from behind.

The League of American Bicyclists and the Coalition of Arizona Bicyclists present fact-based classes for cyclists and motorists on how to "Share the Road" safely and effectively. State laws are an important part of the program, none of which condone riding against traffic. We encourage participation in these classes.

Gene Holmerud
Educational Vice-President
Coalition of Arizona Bicyclists
League Cycling Instructor #1193



Anonymous said...

I wrote a reply as well, and received an e-mail that confirmed receipt of my letter. It was not published. Here is the text of my letter:

Regarding Ms. Hilliard's letter "Bicyclists should ride facing traffic," I am dismayed that this letter has been published because it perpetuates incorrect, dangerous beliefs about how to safely operate a bicycle.

Traveling against traffic only works for pedestrians, who move relatively slowly. It increases bicyclists' risks of accidents because drivers do not check for fast-moving vehicles traveling against traffic. Current laws treat bicycles as vehicles, meaning that bicyclists should obey the same traffic laws as motorized vehicles, and should always travel with traffic.

azbikelaw said...

I imagine the paper got many submissions in response; here is the one they chose to publish:

Keep bicyclists on the right path

Jun. 5, 2010 12:00 AM
As an avid bicyclist who has ridden for over
30 years, I have to take exception to the
letter suggesting that bicyclists should ride
facing traffic ("Bicyclists should ride facing
traffic," Tuesday).

This view, commonly held by non-bicyclists,
is rooted in the mistaken belief that if a
bicyclist is facing traffic, there will be few

The truth is, more accidents would result
because the vast majority of motor
vehicle/bicycle accidents occur at
intersections where paths intersect.
Motorists making turns tend to focus on
oncoming traffic as they pull out and
generally do not look for bicyclists coming
from the other direction.

It is far safer for bicyclists to travel with the
flow of traffic and follow the same rules of
the road as motor vehicles.

It is also incumbent upon motorists to obey
Arizona Revised Statute 28-735, which deals
with overtaking bicycles.

- Brian Buckmaster, Fountain Hills

John Romeo Alpha said...

It may be more effective to respond to a letter like that by explaining why it is better from an automobile driver's point of view if cyclists travel with traffic rather than against it. The Buckmaster letter includes one sentence with that POV ("Motorists making turns tend to focus...") but it's very possible few car drivers will even read that far, since the letter begins "As an avid bicyclist..." and ends with a slap on the wrist to motorists not relevant to the issue. This stance just perpetuates a cyclists vs. motorists perspective of the original letter, which is going nowhere since the whole idea is blending together harmoniously on the roads, not clashing with acrimony.

Al said...

Another misguided letter published today:

azbikelaw said...

sigh. yes, another one of those mythical states where cyclist must ride conter-flow... here is the link