Bikes belong

I just read part two of an article in the OC Register (right wing wacko rag) that seemed to backpedal (no pun intended) a bit from part one in which the author (I did not read part one) appeared to complain about a share the road campaign along Pacific Coast Highway.

I wanted to submit a response, but the filter refused, first complaining about punctuation, and then complaining about the length. So nevermind, I’ll post my response here.

The original article is here. My response is as follows, without proper commas and so on because I can’t be bothered putting them back in after stripping them so assiduously.

I hate bicycling in Orange County. But I will continue to do so because I can and therefore cannot justify the wastefulness of driving. My hope is that others might also follow my example and get out of their cars as well.

I think a fundamental flaw in traffic engineering in California in general and LA and OC in particular is the goal of increasing driving speed. Take for example the city of Irvine with wide bike lanes in abundance. Many of these lanes are on roads with 50 plus speed limits. There is no real reason to have such high speed limits other than the notion that cars should go as fast as is safely practical. So the bike lanes become car lane placeholders empty of bikes because the cars go too fast.

In contrast consider Amsterdam. Its a major metropolis with incredibly busy streets. But the streets are flooded with bicycles and no one sees any need or logic in wearing a helmet. Cars expect bikes speed limits are low and the likelihood that a 3000 pound car colliding with a bike is slim. And if the collision does occur it is likely to be at low speed and non fatal.

I was just reading today about a movement to remove all traffic control hardware and signage from city streets. Also in Europe but this may appeal to the far right libertarians in your readership. The idea is not to cause anarchy in the streets but to encourage traveler to traveler communication. The only traffic law is to yield to the right. A platoon of cars could get together and blitz through the streets just as a peleton of bikes could. But both would pass by soon enough and everybody else would be forced to proceed at a moderate pace and watch out for vehicles on the right at intersections.

And finally I have been thinking about your interpretation of the law that bikes must “ride as close as practicable to the right hand curb or edge of the roadway”. Notice that the law avoids any mention of how far this distance is just as it avoids specifying how much clearance a passing vehicle must leave. Before you write another column on bicycling please get on a bike and ride one. I suggest a block or two on Harbor Boulevard on the street (because riding on the sidewalk is illegal). I would suggest anywhere from Newport Boulevard to the 405. As you ride remember that car doors might get opened up at any time. Consider a “practicable” distance that allows for an opening car door. Also note the speed of the cars passing you. Also note the atrocious condition of the roadway along the curb. Even if you see a crack in the pavement or glass in the street for a week or more it might still be there today. You really do not want to pop a tire and crash on Harbor Boulevard.

To me as close as practicable usually means leaving a foot or two between me and the curb, and about a yard to any parked vehicle unless I can clearly see that no one is in the driver’s seat. On Harbor I have to trim that to one foot, or else I have to really get out into the lane and prevent cars from sideswiping me. That is if I ever have the misfortune of needing to travel on Harbor Boulevard.

There is also a line in the California Vehicle Code that reads that bicycles may take up an entire lane if the lane is of substandard width such that cars and bikes cannot share the lane at the same time. As you bike along Harbor think about whether cars and bikes can share the lane safely or whether you should exercise your right to take up the entire lane.

End of rant. I really am a bicycle nut, but I tend to be a quite one. But annoying articles like that one by earnest drivers looking to save the bicyclists (and doom the planet) get me irritated.

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