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As we move in to my favorite season (or rather erstwhile favorite season, thanks to F YEAH!!! FOOTBALL!), I lament the passing of the warm seasons where it was light out until 8:00 and I could ride my bike after work. Yes, without a helmet, and yes, without all the cycling accoutrements Big Cycling likes to push on people. I had finally embraced the fresh-air sandwiches and daily exercise biking provided and was noticing a difference in my body as well. So that’s my lead for this entry: this past Spring, this indoor girl became…wait for it…pro-cyclist.
My husband recently directed me to a commentary by (I thought) one of my fave writers I studied in college, Mr. PJ O’ Rourke. It’s been determined in our household, after several combative political and social discussions, that I am a Libertarian. O’ Rourke is described in the media as “best described as a Libertarian,” so you’d think we’d be on the same page about at least most things. And I’m sure we are.
However, the link to which I will direct you, dear reader, has me questioning with whom I’ve allied myself. It is an example of how one cannot be pigeon-holed into a certain category, or branded with a certain label, as his thoughts sound like cyclists should have no rights because they are unsightly and cyclists themselves smell of sweat. He stops short of calling for a bicycle recall or ban. Hardly a Libertarian train of thought, n’est-ce pas? I think what’s really going on here is PJ can’t ride a bike and is quite bitter as a result: A Cool and Logical Analysis of the Bicycle Menace
But I digress. As the wife of an avid cyclist, who I’m careful to mention does his part for The Solution by commuting to and from Wash DC every day on the very “childish” and “undignified” contraption of which Mr. O’ Rourke speaks, I am offended by anyone who does not have the utmost respect for a cyclist on the road. (Well, I don't offend easily, so let's just say it sure justifies my misanthropy.) If you see someone on a bike, they are on that bike for one of two reasons: transportation or recreation, both of which are admirable objectives that should be deeply respected in this age of gridlock, and social sloth and obesity. Sure, they may blow through Stop signs and put themselves in danger; but so what? So do kids and dogs. Joggers do it too, and so do cars quite frankly. It’s called defensive driving, and it’s covered on that big test at the DMV. But these obstacles are going a fraction of the speed of a car, particularly in this area, and regardless: Pedestrians have the right-of-way. Check your DMV study book, people. If you see someone walking on the road, even if they are going in the opposite direction on roller skates or pushing a stroller across a busy no-crosswalk intersection (which I’ve seen out my office window many times) cars have to break for them. Because, um, it would suck to hit someone and kill them.
So who has the right of way on the road? Not convinced it’s the cyclists? Wanna get legal about it? Maybe you’ll take lawyer Robert Mionske’s word for it. He writes a column for premier cycling rag Velo News called Legally Speaking, and posted this on the matter:
“A New Jersey court had to decide this in Eichinger v. Krouse, a 1929 case in which a boy wheeling himself down the sidewalk on a scooter entered a crosswalk and was struck by a truck. The truck driver argued that state law required him to stop only for pedestrians in the crosswalk, and that New Jersey defined pedestrians as "those who go about on their feet." The court held that the boy should be considered a pedestrian:
‘While it is understood [that a pedestrian] is one who travels on foot, nevertheless the mere circumstance that he or she has attached to his or her feet roller skates, or ice skates, or walks on stilts, or uses crutches, or is without feet and propels himself or herself along by means of a chair or some other mechanical device, does not clothe him or her with any other character than that of a pedestrian.’
A later ruling contested that decision. But an even later ruling supported it and Mionske says that is the ruling that is upheld today:
“By World War II the general consensus among states was that any human-powered conveyance moving at a speed significantly less than that of motor vehicles should be considered a pedestrian when in a crosswalk. As one California judge put it in a 1952 case, Jermane v. Forfar:
‘The purpose of the law is to safeguard human life, and it should not be construed so as to make it applicable only to persons walking heels-and-toe. We cannot escape the conviction that the term 'walking in the highway' was intended to be inclusive of all persons in the street, standing or moving therein, when using their legs and feet.’
The question I have for the disgruntled commuters who like to try and run cyclists off the road: Just what exactly are you trying to prove? That this road ain't big enough for the both of us? That you have a blatant disregard for human life? That you are insanely envious of the speed with which the cyclist is commuting home while your fat ass waits out yet another red light in your well-broken-in driver’s seat? Bikers have so few concessions in this area, and they’re just trying to get to where they’re going like the rest of us. Just let them pass, and cycle their way right out of your life.