Here’s an article from today’s Reno Gazette Journal that adds to my discussion of irate drivers vs. cyclists in this blog on June 5, 2010.
Bicyclists, drivers in road tug-of-war
By Kara LaPoint • firstname.lastname@example.org • June 13, 2010
Verdi resident John Leeming has been screamed at, honked at, foghorned and has had doors opened at him from moving vehicles — all while riding his bike around Reno.
Dean Deming shares similar experiences, and then some: being run off the road and getting hit from behind.
“Every time I go out, I wonder if it will be the last,” Deming said.
Leeming and Deming are among bicyclists who say they feel a sense of fear when riding. And according to Sgt. Jim Stegmaier of the Reno police Traffic Division, that fear is legitimate.
“It’s definitely a huge issue in Washoe County,” Stegmaier said.
But while bikers said some drivers make them feel unsafe, drivers have their own complaints.
Reno resident David Mueller said bicyclists ignore stop signs, ride on the left side of the bike lane, forcing drivers to veer around.
They also ride two abreast on busy streets, seeming “blissfully unaware that they are blocking a lane,” he said.
Bikers “constantly whine” about wanting to have rights, but then don’t follow the rules of the road, Mueller said.
Bicycle and pedestrian enforcement are increasing, Stegmaier said, as the result of a $36,000 grant from the Office of Traffic Safety in Carson City.
Leeming said he rides twice a week from Verdi.
While he said he has numerous fears — primarily distracted drivers — he’s still willing to ride, but friends are not.
“People are afraid they’ll get clobbered,” he said.
Leeming cited distracted drivers and roadside debris as the main hazards, plus motorists failing to give bikers room on the road.
“Bicyclists have a right to the lane,” he said, “but drivers don’t always want to share the road.”
Deming said he has seen Reno drivers that appear to “have it out for bicycles,” including throwing things at him from car windows. He said a man once hung out of a truck swinging a shovel at him. A woman in Verdi also ran him off the road.
Stegmaier said that while such violations are infrequent, they are taken seriously. When complaints are made, battery or assault with a deadly weapon can be filed.
Leeming said he sees bicyclists riding two or three abreast or blowing through stop signs. But, he said, he takes his place in line at four-way stops and queues up behind lights and left turn lanes, and most riders he knows do the same.
“I just have so much to lose in an intersection with a car,” he said. “Even if we’re right, we’re dead right.”
Deming also sees riders disobeying rules of the road and understands complaints about bicyclists.
“Yes, we get the same rights (as cars), but we’re also bound by the same laws, and I think some cyclists forget that,” he said. “As bicyclists, I think we must be more conscientious.”
While Stegmaier said lack of knowledge is a major safety issue, he said drivers not wanting to share the road also is a big problem.
“They feel that the bicycle should only ride in areas with a designated bicycle lane,” he said. “That’s nice when they’re there, but cyclists can only use what’s available, and motorists have a hard time with that.”
He said that as more people turn to bikes for transportation because of economic reasons and changing weather, it becomes increasingly important to find safety solutions.
In addition to adding “share the road” billboards along bike routes and stepping up enforcement against both bikes and cars, Stegmaier said police distribute booklets to riders and motorists on traffic stops to inform them of their shared responsibilities.
Stegmaier said that if he could get only one message out, it would be for everyone to take a little more time and give each other more respect.
Deming, Leeming and cyclist Josh Black, who has lived in several states, suggested adding questions on bicycle safety to driving tests, distributing safety guides with car purchases and designating bike routes.
“It’s not slowing down,” Black said of the increase in cyclists. “Reno needs to embrace the fact that bikers are becoming more common, rather than being resistant.
“This is a huge opportunity for Reno to really shine.”