BY STEVE HULME
Two-wheel season is upon us again! As the days get longer and the temperatures warmer, bicycles and motorcycles come out of winter storage, and fair-weather riders take to the highways and byways.
Cyclists (both bi- and motor-) are vulnerable creatures, compared to their brothers and sisters who choose car transportation. Those tons of steel, safety restraints and airbags provide a cocoon of security. By contrast, the only way cyclists can avoid injury or death is to avoid collisions, period.
Some cyclists are their own worst enemies! They ignore basic safety guidelines.
Bicyclists ride straight into oncoming traffic! Or along the sidewalk, where they are less likely to be noticed. Or they “blow through” traffic signals and stop signs, as though they have an invisible force field. They ride with no hands on the bars, or with headphones blasting tunes into their ears and muffling the sound of traffic. They wear dark clothing, and ride at night without lights or reflectors.
Motorcyclists exceed the speed limit. They weave in and out of traffic. They outride their abilities. They ride in shorts, tank tops, and flip-flops. Or wearing a “do rag” instead of a helmet.
Where are the cops when you need ‘em?!! Now and then they nab a scofflaw motorcycle rider. But they’re mostly happy to ignore law-breaking bicycle riders, unless a collision is involved.
Inattentive motorists compound the problem. Far too often, following a crash involving a cyclist and a motorist, the driver laments, “I just didn’t see him!” There are more distractions – mostly in the form of hand-held electronic gizmos – than ever before. And far too many people – who are piloting a 4000-pound lethal missile – do so as if their driving is an unpleasant distraction from the stuff they really want to pay attention to.
And once again, “law enforcement” is hardly a motivator. For every 1000 drivers who are inattentive, do you s’pose one inattentive driving ticket gets issued?
April isn’t even over yet, and we’ve already had several crashes (I refuse to call them “accidents”) that have resulted in injuries or death for bicyclists and motorcyclists, right here in beautiful Boise. In every case, somebody was doing something he or she hadn’t oughtta.
What can be done?
Bicyclists and motorcyclists need to ride smart! Know the laws and follow them. Be visible, predictable and defensive. Don’t ride like you have an invisible force field protecting you… because you don’t! Parents need to make sure their kids ride in places where they won’t be exposed to undue hazards.
It would be nice if the police would be more involved in educating and enforcing, with regards to bicyclists. But the stated position of the BPD is, “Bicycle violations are not a priority for the Department.” I don’t see that changing any time soon… but it may slowly evolve as more people use bicycles for their transportation.
What can the vast majority – those who see cyclists through their windshields – do?
PLEASE pay attention to your driving! Make sure you are operating in a safe manner. Don’t let your handheld gizmo, or your CD player, or your screaming kids in the back seat, or your Happy Meal, become a distraction. Don’t drive impaired. Don’t be the driver who laments, “I just didn’t see him!” as your victim is hauled away to the hospital or the morgue.
Let’s all make it through the summer without a smash-up!
Note: The author rides about 6000 miles per year on a bicycle in and around Boise, and another 6000 miles per year on motorcycles. He tries to always ride legally, visibly, predictably, and defensively.
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