“Good” intentions are no excuse for an ignorant solution.

On Friday, May 31st, a bicyclist was killed outside of Salina, KS after being struck from behind by a vehicle whose driver fled the scene.Bicyclist Killed In Salina 2013-05-31. Photo courtesy KCWH.  The Salina Journal used the tragic event to suggest in an online article that cyclists should “stay in town to ride, find some enclosed area, find some other safe form of exercise, such as jogging, or, just give yourself a rest.” in an article entitled, “You’re not training for the Olympics”.  See http://t.co/tbftzyYedo .

My email to the executive editor follows.

Mr. Wearing:

I started to give you the benefit of the doubt about your intentions but, upon further consideration, I took offense with your article entitled “You’re not training for the Olympics.”  You propose, due to harvest season, that cyclists “stay in town to ride, find some enclosed area, find some other safe form of exercise, such as jogging, or, just give yourself a rest.”  Frankly, I like my chances against a combine better than against an inattentive, in town SUV driver with a cell phone plastered to his or her ear.

The condescending title of your article thinly veils your contempt for cyclists.  If the safety and well-being of cyclists was truly your intent, shouldn’t your focus been directed at the unsafe, inattentive drivers of motor vehicles?  There is no sign that the cowardly criminal that struck and killed Ms. Kline was engaged in an agricultural pursuit.  To use this tragic event to launch your platform against road cyclists is shameful.  Had the driver been involved in “the harvest”, would that have excused his negligence and heinous act of striking Ms. Kline, leaving her for dead?  Your article leans toward suggesting Ms. Kline was at fault for, heaven forbid, riding outside of town in a rural area.  You offer no discussion of the horrible crime committed by the hit and run driver. Why be concerned about the law when you can instead show your clear prejudice against cyclists?

Anti-cyclist road rage is apparently the “in” thing. Road rage against cyclists is increasingly reported as more and more people take to their bikes. According to the League of American Bicyclists, more than 9 million Americans describe themselves as “active cyclists” — weekend riders, off-road riders, commuters, and amateur or professional athletes.

All cyclists face the daily hazards of commuting in traffic, including dogs, road hazards, traffic codes, harassment and road rage. It’s unfortunate that harassment and road rage, intentional and potentially dangerous acts, are common.

You are apparently among the legion of drivers that feel aggrieved with anything or anyone that gets in the way of their smooth, speedy forward momentum. However, in the overall scheme of things, does a delay of 10 to 30 seconds in the driver’s otherwise carefully crafted schedule merit the abuse cyclists take?  And, heaven forbid that anything get in the way of the harvest which, in your mind, must justify reckless, imprudent, and inattentive driving.

I believe you need a review of the applicable Kansas statutes on bicycles and suggest you share them with your readers.  In relevant part:

– Motorists may not do anything, even something that otherwise appears legal, that endangers a bicyclist, pedestrian, or other motorist. Safety, not speed, is the highest consideration in traffic law.

– Bicycles may ride on any street except travel lanes of interstate highways or where prevented by local law.

– In Kansas, bicyclists may ride two abreast on roadways without exception.

– Bicyclists have the same rules, rights and responsibilities as other drivers.

– This means that motorists must treat bicycles as any other vehicle. For instance, do not pull out in front of a moving bicyclist, cut a bicyclist off, or pass a bicyclist unsafely.

– When traveling slower than traffic, bicyclists generally move to the right of the travel lanes, just as other slow-moving vehicles do. But do not expect bicyclists to hug the curb, dodge in and out between parked cars, or ride on a debris-covered shoulder. Bicycling that way is not safe, and the law requires bicyclists to ride safely.

– If the lane is too narrow to safely share between a bicycle and a motor vehicle, the bicycle may move towards the center of the lane to discourage motor vehicles from dangerously squeezing past in the lane. If you see a bicyclist riding in the middle of the lane in this way, the bicyclist is following the law. Slow and wait behind the bicyclist until it is safe to move into the next lane to pass.

– Bicyclists may sometimes ride the shoulder of the road when available. However, they are not required by law to do so. Obstacles in the shoulder such as glass, debris, or rough pavement may not be obvious to the motorist but may be very dangerous to the bicyclist.

– Bicycle lanes may not be blocked or used for parking. Motorists must signal and yield to any bicyclists in the lane before crossing a bicycle lane. As with shoulders, bicyclists may leave the bike lane for any number of reasons, including debris, obstacles, or to prepare for a turn.

– Motor vehicles are to give cyclists a minimum of 3′ clearance when passing.  (That means you can give greater clearance if able.)

A review of the driver’s handbook Kansas reveals the following:

– On public streets and highways, bicyclists have the same rights and responsibilities as a motor vehicle operator.

– If you are following a bicyclist and need to make a right turn, you must yield to the cyclist. It is often safer to slow down and stay behind the cyclist until you are able to turn.

– Motorcyclists and bicyclists change speed and lane position when encountering bad road conditions, such as manhole covers, diagonal railroad tracks, road debris or in strong winds. Be ready to react.

– When you are passing, give motorcycles a full lane width. If possible, give a full lane to bicycles and mopeds, too. Do not squeeze past these road users. The bicycle is generally a slower moving vehicle and this may require you to slow down. Wait for a clear stretch of road before passing a cyclist in a lane too narrow to share.

– The operator of a motor vehicle overtaking a bicycle proceeding in the same direction shall leave a safe distance when passing the bicycle, and shall maintain clearance until safely past the overtaken bicycle. Passing unsafely is a traffic offense punishable by driver license points, fines, and even jail, if a collision results.

– The law says who must yield the right-of-way; it does not give anyone the right-of-way. You must do everything you can to prevent striking a bicyclist as you would a pedestrian or another vehicle, regardless of the circumstances.

– Sharing the road with others, in a considerate manner, makes the road safer for everybody!

I went back and re-read all the applicable statutes and regulations . . . nope, nothing about staying off the roads during the harvest.  Very few of us that ride bikes are training for anything much less the Olympics.  We know that.  We ride for a variety of reasons: exercise, stress relief, commuting, the pure enjoyment of riding.   By law, we are permitted to use your precious county highways for these pursuits.  I suggest your article should have educated motorists and not scold cyclists.  Finally, to use a terrible tragedy the way you did is disrespectful to the victim and her family.

Respectfully,

Randy Schroer

A cyclist for all seasons including the harvest

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