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OC Register columnist says bikes and cars should not compete

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Mike Iglesias
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Joined: 05 Dec 2002
Posts: 13
Location: Costa Mesa

PostPosted: Thu May 31, 2007 1:07 pm    Post subject: OC Register columnist says bikes and cars should not compete Reply with quote

OC Register columnist Gordon Dillow thinks that cyclists don't belong on roads like PCH where speeds are high. Read it here:

Wednesday, May 30, 2007
Cars and bicycles shouldn't compete
Register columnist

I was driving along an open stretch of Pacific Coast Highway the other day, at or just under the posted speed limit of 50 mph, and every hundred yards or so I was passing groups of two or three or a dozen bicyclists pedaling along in the bike lane. And that's when it occurred to me:

I don't want to share the road. More specifically, I don't want to share a high-speed road with bicycle riders – not because it's that big of a problem for me, but because it's too dangerous for them.

As you may know, "Share the Road" is the slogan for the campaign to make car drivers cooperate with bike riders. The idea is to encourage motorists to be more aware of bicyclists and treat them safely and courteously.

That's certainly a laudable goal. And perhaps cars and bikes can safely share the roads in residential or other areas where the speed limits are 30 or 35 mph.

But on roads like sections of Pacific Coast Highway, where speed limits range up to 55 mph, it seems like utter madness to have 3,000- or 4,000-pound cars going 55 mph hurtle past 25-pound bikes going 15 mph – with nothing more substantial between them than a thin white stripe delineating the shoulder or the "bike lane." It's like allowing baby strollers on the freeway.

Yes, I know we've spent millions of dollars creating bike lanes – as opposed to separate, no-cars-allowed bike "paths" and "trails" – along our streets and highways. I also realize that in this day and age there are few things more politically incorrect than to suggest that cars be given preference over bicycles. After all, in the popular view, motor vehicles are pollution-spewing, gas-guzzling (and gasoline tax-paying) monsters, while bikes are benign, environmentally friendly little munchkins.

But the problem is that when monsters mix with munchkins, the munchkins are inevitably going to get stepped on – too often with tragic results.

Consider the numbers. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, in 2005 there were 115 "pedalcyclists" – that's the NHTSA's word – killed in traffic crashes in California, nine of them in Orange County. True, bicycle fatalities were only about 3 percent of the total 4,300 traffic-related fatalities in the state, but if you factor in such things as "fatalities per miles traveled," it's pretty clear that statistically it's more dangerous to ride a bike on the roads than to drive a car.

And whose fault is that?

Stats on that are hard to come by. But I asked two veteran Orange County traffic cops that question, and both agreed that, based on their experiences, half or more of car vs. bike collisions are caused by the bicyclists. They veer into traffic lanes, they travel the wrong way on streets, they blow through stoplights – in short, they don't safely share the road.

Obviously, a lot of motorists do boneheaded things, too. They veer into bike lanes, cut across them into parking lots, don't keep their eyes open for bicyclists and so on.

But the point is that regardless of who is at fault in a car vs. bike collision, it's the bicyclist who's going to suffer, physically at least. Once again, no 25-pound bike is ever going to "win" in a collision with a 4,000-pound car – and yet we persist in trying to mix heavy, high-speed motor vehicles with light, low-speed bikes on high-volume, relatively high-speed roads.

Well, some people would argue that we'd actually be better off if we all slowed down to a bicyclist's pace of 15 mph or so – and who knows, maybe they're right. But in the real world, fast-moving cars and slow-moving bikes simply don't mix. Under those conditions, the only real solution is to physically separate them as much as possible with barriers or dedicated bike paths.

Now, I'm sure I'll be hearing from bicyclists who will explain to me – in a civil manner, I hope – just how wrong I am on this one. If so, I'll try to fairly present their point of view in a future column.

In the meantime, I'll continue to try to safely "share the road" with bicyclists, and I would encourage other motorists to do the same.

But I still can't figure out why any bicyclist would be crazy enough to want to share the road with us.

Contact the writer: CONTACT THE WRITER 714-796-7953 or

Mike Iglesias
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PostPosted: Fri Jun 01, 2007 8:50 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Check out my letter to the editor:

Friday, June 1, 2007
The safe path for motorists and bicyclists
Letters to the Editor for June 1

Since cars are bigger and faster than bicycles, your columnist Gordon Dillow ["Cars and bicycles shouldn't compete," Local, May 30]takes the view that bicycling on roads like PCH must be a very risky activity.

But if he dug deeper into bicycling crash data, he would find this paternalistic view unwarranted. While "hit from behind" car-bike crashes are often feared, they are actually very rare. Rather, most car-bike crashes involve turning and crossing movements at intersections and driveways. Facility "fixes" like barrier separations increase crash risk by routing cyclists into the path of turning motorists, rather than allowing cyclists the normal roadway movement behavior necessary to prevent these crashes.

However, as a traffic cycling instructor and crash-free bicycle commuter for over 10 years, I do agree with the title of his column, "Cars and bicycles shouldn't compete." "Sharing the road" is about cooperation, not competition, to use the roads safely. Bicyclists should do their part by not needlessly delaying motorists when lanes are wide enough for safe sharing.

Motorists need to be aware that bicyclists may lawfully be away from the right edge of the road when lanes are too narrow to share or when needed to avoid potential crossing conflicts.

- Brian DeSousa of Orange
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Joined: 27 Nov 2002
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PostPosted: Fri Jun 01, 2007 9:52 pm    Post subject: OCBC Response Reply with quote

----- Forwarded Message -----
From: Don Harvey <>
Date: Fri, 1 Jun 2007 08:26:20 -0700
Subject: Bikes sharing the road with columnists

Your column expressed what many drivers think, and some act out in their driving, endangering or hitting bicyclists. In view of this, it deserves a serious answer.

Everybody--even drivers who'll never use them--benefits from bikes. I'm told the earth is running low on oil. Within the next 50 years, maybe a lot sooner, a fill-up may well cost a few hundred dollars, maybe more. How will people who can't afford that make their 5 or 10-mile trips then? Some will walk--it'll take them hours. Many will take the bus or train, but buses or trains don't go everywhere. Not everyone will want to bicycle, surely, but for the others it may be a welcome option.

And maybe before that happens there'll be some traffic congestion. Drivers who notice this (do you?) may realize that at the present level of cars without passengers, every bike means pretty nearly one less car. These drivers may tend to be more forgiving of an additional few seconds delay. But this assumes rationality. Some will be like you, and act it out. Of course, most of them won't have Register columns, and will just drive angrily. Some who do that will endanger others. Your column will contribute to that. Maybe you and the Register can take pride in that.

Don Harvey, JD, PhD
Executive Director
Orange County Bicycle Coalition (OCBC)

(949) 759-0219
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PostPosted: Sun Jun 10, 2007 9:45 pm    Post subject: June 3 Followup Reply with quote

I didn't notice this followup until today. There were no letters to the editor; looks like he gets the last word.

Sunday, June 3, 2007
Cars vs. bicycles, part II

Last week's column prompted an avalanche of mail.

My column last week on the dangers of cars and bicycles sharing the roads prompted a mountain of mail. The good news is that out of the first hundred or so phone messages and emails – with more still coming in – only one angry bicyclist actually called me an (expletive.)

And by today's low standards of public discourse, especially on the Internet, that's positively refreshing.

In the column I took issue with the "Share the Road" campaign, which encourages motorists to be more aware and respectful of bicycle riders. While that's a laudable goal, I argued that it's dangerous madness to mix fast-moving 4,000-pound cars with relatively slow-moving 25-pound (or less) bikes on high-volume, high-speed roads like sections of Pacific Coast Highway – because no matter who's at fault in a car vs. bike collision the bicyclist always loses, often fatally.

In fact, I likened mixing cars and bikes on busy roads with allowing baby strollers on a freeway. The disparity in speed, weight and stopping distance is just too great – and therefore I suggested that, wherever possible, bikes be relegated to separate, no-cars-allowed bike paths and trails.

Well, about a third of the respondents agreed with me – including some cyclists who said they had given up riding on the streets because of the danger. I also heard a host of complaints by motorists about dangerous behavior by some cyclists – running red lights, darting in front of cars, groups of bicyclists riding in tandem in bike lanes or on shoulders and making it difficult for motorists to safely pass them, and so on.

But the majority of respondents were bicyclists who thought I was, at best, seriously misguided.

"To compare cyclists…to baby strollers is about as absurd as me saying that old people such as yourself should not drive because they lack proper vision and reflexes," wrote Mark Warrick of Lake Forest. "Both statements have some degree of fact, but are equally stereotypical … and discriminatory."

Wait a minute. Old people such as myself? Mark, you whippersnapper!

Actually, Mark agreed that in some places cyclists should be protected by barriers – if only local governments were willing to spend the necessary dough. He added that, "We (cyclists and bicycle organizations) have been trying to save lives by educating people about common sense safety measures – and not just for the cyclists, but for the many careless drivers."

Careless and aggressive drivers were common themes. I heard about motorists yelling at bicyclists, honking for no reason, swerving into bike lanes (often while talking on cell phones), or even throwing things at them. Some cyclists even thought I was encouraging such boorish and dangerous behavior.

"There are already too many motorists on the road who feel they own every inch of it, all the time, any time," Jack Pouchet, who works in Irvine, wrote. "(They) are more than ready to use your article as ammunition to prove their point as they push the next bicyclist off the road."

A number of cyclists also said it would be unfair to shunt bicyclists onto bike paths when there aren't enough of them.

"I would prefer to bicycle commute on a separate bicycle path, (but) because of the lack of those bicycle paths … I do not have that choice," wrote California Bicycle Coalition vice president Brian Cox, of Placentia. "Until we recognize the value that (bicycles) provide … and make some positive changes, cyclists will be forced to share the road with automobiles."

Perhaps the most common comment I received was that under state law, bicyclists have exactly the same rights to the road as motorists – which is pretty much true. One key exception is that when they're traveling more slowly than vehicle traffic (which they usually are) bicyclists are generally required by Vehicle Code Section 21202 to "ride as close as practicable to the right-hand curb or edge of the roadway" – something that not all bicyclists do.

Meanwhile, some militant bicyclists stubbornly insisted that no 4,000-pound car is going to brush them off the road under any circumstances – and as one bicyclist said, "If you don't care for that, tough." And another bicyclist, who may be wearing his Lycra a little too tight, ignored the safety arguments in my "despicable" column and instead focused on his right to "become one with my bike" while pedaling the highways and byways.

Which is fine. I just hope while he's becoming one with his bike that he and his bike won't become one with a car.

And finally, I heard from a number of cyclists who acknowledged the dangers of mixing bicycles with motor vehicles but will continue to do it anyway.

"You need to understand that (riding a bicycle) is my passion," wrote Francisco Chanes of Rancho Santa Margarita. "Yes, I keep telling myself that one of these days it could be me, but I have to live with that in order to enjoy the thing I love most."

Okay, Francisco. It's up to you. I would only ask that while you and other bicyclists are out there on the streets that you be careful with your lives.

And I'll pray that the motorists you encounter will be careful with them, too.

Contact the writer: 714-796-7953 or
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