A recent article in USA Today asks the question that is on the tip of no one's tongue:
Have bicyclists "rights? gone too far?
Punctuation errors aside, I have to wonder if Chris Woodyard, A USA Today auto writer, put the word "rights" in quotations because he thinks bicyclists have no rights. That would be odd since he lists bicycling as one of his interests.
To him the sign that, yes indeed we have coddled cyclists for far too long, is the fact that instead of riding to the right or on the shoulder many cyclists are now ride in the center of the lane. So he's against vehicular cycling.
This, in his summation, is putting cyclists at risk. As evidence he points to the Curtis Leymeister homicide in St. Mary's county, where not riding to to the right was a "major contributor" to his death according to the police. He also brings up the alleged assault of two cyclists by a doctor in LA who pulled in front of the cyclists, slammed on his brakes and injured them. The doctor is currently on trial for that.
So one incident where a driver failed to see a cyclist and plowed into him (if she didn't see him in the middle of the road, would she have seen him on the right?) and a case where a driver allegedly assaulted two cyclists. If these are the two best examples of cyclists overstepping their rights that you can find, you have got a very weak case. He also had to go back to 1997 to find the accompanying photo. What I get is not that cyclists are "two-wheel troublemakers" but that drivers are violent and inattentive.
Seeing this again makes me think that it would have been nice if, in the Leymeister crash, the police had mentioned driver error was a "major contributor" so that people wouldn't get the message that bad cycling caused this. And I can't believe that he's holding Dr. Thompson up as a victim of uppity cyclist who don't know their place. That guy is not who you want as your poster boy.
Woodyard goes on to interview the Washcycle's own Jeff Peel. Jeff makes very reasonable statements (though I wonder how much was left out).
His contention is that the road is "not motorist space. It's people space." Bicyclists are road users too, even if they travel at the[sic] fraction of the speed of a car. In fact, he says, that's good.
"The idea is you are slowing traffic, which may be frustrating to some motorists but making the road safer for everyone," Peel says. "Creating safer roadways and right-of-ways for all users sometimes requires taking space away from automobiles."
See how he puts words in Jeff's mouth. I'm sure Jeff never referred to cyclists going "at the[sic] fraction of the speed of a car" unless that fraction was 4/5. Anyway the talk of taking space away from cars is too much for Woodyard, who also refers to cyclists as "hogging the road" and riding in the middle of the "highway" and adds:
In the past, you might have tried to steer around them. These days, they are right in front of the car.
What is that, a threat? Now he's not going to try to steer around them? And notice how he says "you," as in "you" drive but "they" bike. Total Windshield Perspective. Finally he mentions the 10 states that require cyclists to use a shoulder, path or bike lane when one is present. As in a fraction of the states. Not on the list, by the way, is California where one of his two incidents happened.
In a country where, to a large extent, it is OK to kill a cyclist because you weren't paying attention and where cyclists are intimidated and yelled at on a regular basis, where in 10 states cyclists are marginalized to shoulders and paths I think the answer to Woodyard's question is no.
The article has over 600 comments, BTW.