May 20, 2014

By Staff

Bike, cars can get along better

May 16 was Bike to Work Day, and thousands of two-wheeled commuters took to the road. The mere thought of a cyclist can start some drivers’ blood boiling, and cyclists, too, find themselves frustrated by inconsiderate motorists.

Bikes on the roads are here to stay, and indeed, if current trends hold, will be an ever-growing presence. More work must be done to help bikes and cars co-exist, and two of the biggest missing ingredients are predictability and education.

Drivers are generally clear on the rules that cars are supposed to follow. They often don’t, which leads to accidents, but they know what a car is supposed to do in a given situation.

Bikes are a different sort of animal. According to the whim of the rider, a bike can be either a vehicle or a pedestrian. Many motorists don’t realize that it’s perfectly legal for a biker to run up to a red light on the street, then decide they’re a pedestrian and cross against the red light — but with the pedestrian walk signal.

From one time to the next, a driver doesn’t know what a biker is going to do, and that is the cause of much of the frustration. There needs to be a clearer set of expectations for how a bike and a car are expected to interact, so that both drivers and cyclists can understand better what they are supposed to do.

It might make sense to develop a set of regulations specifically for bicycles, rather than the current system of allowing them to be governed by two different (auto and pedestrian) and sometimes contradictory sets of rules.

These laws could help clarify situations like those at a red light. Ideally, once each knows what the other is supposed to do, the new rules could reduce the hostility between the two groups.

After that, there must be better education. The state includes bike questions on the written portion of the driver’s test, but that doesn’t seem to be enough.

Clear rules and better education about them could be a step toward reducing everyone’s blood pressure.


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2 Responses to “Editorial”

  1. David B. on May 21st, 2014 7:28 pm

    This editorial calling for more biking rules and training sure isn’t a call for more biking and sure seems like it comes from people that don’t actually try to bicycle much.

    The timing of the editorial is ironic to me because just this morning I observed a bicyclist ride on Highlands Drive from Issaquah Highlands towards the I-90 freeway entrance. I thought to myself that this guy is going to have a tough decision when he gets near the freeway entrance: Cut across traffic in front of rush hour traffic or turn right onto the freeway. He was kind of lucky in that everyone stopped for the traffic light just as he got there so he could kind of cut in front of the cars to go straight and no car was turning left from the oncoming traffic. My thought was that this person should have gone down the adjacent trail, which I believe there is even a sign asking bicyclists to do this. Of course, that is a “sidewalk” all the way into down and presents its own confusion and challenges to the cyclist and drivers.

    In this situation, how would more training and rules help the bicyclist. The confusion created for cyclist is as much a reflection of the scattered random infrastructure as anything else. All you have to do is ride a bike around a bit to see that.

  2. Frequent cyclist on June 3rd, 2014 9:28 am

    The city of Issaquah doesn’t love bicycles. They love talking about bicycles, and they love getting tax revenue from bicycle stores. The SR900 overpass replacement project is a good example: it very nearly eliminated one way (out of only three ways) for cyclists to get across I90, because city transportation people simply weren’t paying attention to anything but cars, and approved a WSDOT design with no allowance for anything but cars. (This is why we had to have that grossly expensive flyover. You can thank the city planners for painting themselves into that corner.)

    If the city really wanted to promote alternative transportation responsibly, they’d budget for more than one traffic officer on the police department. And then to help educate everyone in how to co-exist, they’d do regular enforcement patrols – on ALL road users, including pedestrians and bicycles as well as cars. Then maybe we wouldn’t see drivers pointedely ignoring pedestrians standing in the middle of the street in the crosswalk at City Hall; or groups of self-absorbed pedestrians spreading out to block all other traffic on a busy downtown sidewalk; or all the jerks racing down said sidewalks on their mountain bikes, through the al fresco restaurant seating areas, with a cellphone in one hand. (Or maybe the city would even stop allowing all the restaurant owners to block the sidewalks like that, forcing cyclists and pedestrians out into Front Street? I know I’m dreaming, but…)

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