Friday, April 6, 2012

F.N.F. - To Whom It May Concern

Damn....It's been a long time. Issue specific post here.....

OK, Maybe the driver of the car _was_ driving like an idiot, or maybe this was in fact a legitimate accident. The footage isn't clear on that regard, but what _is_ clear is the the driver tried to flee the scene. Kudos to a heads-up bus driver and the dirver of the car that blocked the dumbass in.

However, there is one point I would like to make:
I started commuting by bicyle in 1986, from Chelmsford to Lexington, through the traffic mess in Bedford center. I commuted for a short time to MEEI/MGH in the early 90's, and I've commuted through Haverhill, Lawrence, and Nashua. I currently take a route though downtown Nashua at rush hour both mornings and evenings. In 25 years of commuting, I've been hit exactly one time, by a car cutting across traffic.

I made that point because I see something horribly wrong with how the cyclist was riding. Before the cyclist gets hit, he's pretty much riding in the _middle_ of the lane. In one shot he's even drifted to the the left side of the lane. There are very few occasions when - in my experience - it's reasonable to take the lane. Those are pretty much excluded to: when your speed closely matches the speed of the traffic, and when you're preparing to make a turn across traffic. I take the lane frequently, but I wouldn't have done it in the conditions I see there. Even giving the benefit of the doubt that he was taking the lane to prepare for a left turn, in the subsequent shot you can see he's barely half-way across the bridge. Looking at his speed, it doesn't seem to me that he was riding anywhere near the flow of traffic, which would also justify taking the lane imo.

I'm not saying that he deserved to get hit, of course he didn't. What I _am_ saying is that he wasn't riding safely or with consideration of the traffic around him. Yes, he was legally in the right, but that shouldn't be a reason to ride like that. I'm not sure what the laws are in bethlehem PA, but if it wasn't illegal for him to ride on the sidewalk, he should have. He wasn't going fast enough to justify riding in the traffic lane on a road with no shoulder, and there wasn't enough foot traffic on the sidewalk to cause a safety issue.Even if riding in the pedestrian way _is_ illegal, I wouldn't have been riding in the middle of the lane. I'm saying, if he had been more respectful of the traffic and stayed as far to the right as was possible and safe, the accident might not have happened.

Let me reiterate: Clearly, the driver of the car is at fault, but I have to question the judgment of the cyclist here as well. I used to help out with safety clinics when I was with NEBC. One point I always made - especially to the younger riders - was that even though they legally had the right-of-way, that didn't give them license to ride without consideration of the traffic. I called it "dead right". Sure, If you get hit you're probably legally right, but you may also end up dead.

Now, anyone who has ever read my blog or facebook postings knows I do stupid shit on bicycles. I weave through stopped traffic and I won't hesitate to hop in a truck draft at 40 mph though city streets. That said, I know what risks I'm taking there, and those actions aren't an inconvenience or disrespectful of other drivers. However, taking the lane while traveling 20-30 mph slower than traffic is, imo, both disrespectful and dangerous.

I don't want anyone reading this to think I'm siding with the driver, or making some justification for cyclist getting hit. If you take that away from this post, you're clearly an idiot, and the public would be better off if you stayed home playing World Of Warcraft and collected some social safety net stipend. I don't mind my tax dollars being spent to keep you off the streets.

UPDATE: Apparently, the city of Bethlehem had passed a by-law that stipulated the full-lane access for cyclists on that bridge. It seems the signage had not been put into place yet. That doesn't change my position on this. Simply that a cyclist is _allowed_ to use the full lane, imo, doesn't mean they should. It means that a cyclist can't be cited for obstructing traffic in case they do, and motorists _must_ yield the right-of-way. What the driver did would have been illegal regardless of the by law or not. That said, I still think it fool-hardy to take the lane as the rider in the video did.

The message here is; Ride smart, ride safe, and most of all, ride.

Here it is, your F.N.F