LETTER: Operation Share-the-Road ensures safety for cyclists

Wednesday, October 8, 2008 | 11:31 a.m. CDT

The PedNet Coalition commends and thanks the Columbia Police Department, especially Capts. Schwartze and Monticelli, and Detective Westbrook, for implementing "Operation Share-the-Road" during October.

Under this program, police officers emphasize enforcement of traffic laws related to bicycles. Dangerous behavior by motorists (yelling, honking, throwing objects at cyclists and driving too close) will not be tolerated. At the same time, dangerous behavior by cyclists (riding on the wrong side of the street, riding at night without lights and running red lights and stop signs) will also result in warnings and tickets.

The PedNet Coalition views bicycling as a legitimate and overwhelmingly practical mode of transport for local journeys. Most trips to work, school, shopping or social events in Columbia are five miles or less, so the time saved by driving is negligible. Bicycling improves health and fitness for the individual; saves money for the family (downsizing from two cars to one saves $8,000 per year on average); and reduces traffic congestion, air pollution and road maintenance costs for the community.

Unfortunately, there is a widespread belief that bicycling with traffic is dangerous. In fact, it's perfectly safe if the cyclist (1) learns how to ride correctly, and (2) obeys traffic laws. In virtually all bike-related accidents in Columbia, the cyclist is riding the wrong way, riding at night without lights or failing to stop. Through "Operation Share-the-Road," the Police Department is helping promote cycling for transportation.

For information about Confident City Cycling, PedNet's bike safety class funded by GetAbout Columbia, please call 239-7916.


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Charles Dudley Jr October 8, 2008 | 2:13 p.m.

Yesterday I was riding on the City Bus coming East on Broadway before Providence and there was a bicyclist hogging the road in front of the City Bus. Is that proper bike etiquette to make City Buses so they are late or might be late?
Many times I see bicyclists in this city doing this around town and yes I am sure there is a Ordinance they cannot ride on the sidewalks but why not in some areas where it can be done redo those sidewalks and combine them with the bike paths needed on the major thorough fares of our city? Is it fair that the City Transit Buses are made to be late for their runs helping people to "GetAboutColumbia" to their jobs,school or where ever they go due to some bicyclist is hogging the road of a major thorough fare when a solution would be to combine the sidewalks and bike paths needed in areas this can be done as I suggest here.

(Report Comment)
Mark Foecking October 8, 2008 | 3:07 p.m.

The reason that a cyclist is riding in traffic should be to keep traffic behind him from passing him dangerously (sometimes it doesn't work, but still...). If the cyclist then does not move out of the lane, then yes, he is slowing down traffic (he still has a legal right to do this however). It's rare that a cyclist would slow the bus down by more than a minute or so.

Putting cyclists off the street results in more accidents (at intersections primarily) than leaving them on the street. They're more visible on the street. There is a reason why competent cyclists ride as they do.


(Report Comment)
Charles Dudley Jr October 8, 2008 | 4:34 p.m.

As I said is it right though to let cyclists slow down the City Transit System that moves hundreds of more people in a single day that cyclists will be on the roads themselves and especially when the City just raised those transit fares too. Don't get me wrong I am all for cyclists doing their thing but in alot of cases they are a pain in the rump to all motorists who are trying to get where they need to go and do not want to have to worry about running over some yaehoo on a bike everyday just because the cyclist believes they are entitled or think they can be a road hog.
There are alot of places in this city that the sidewalks and bike lanes can be combined into one due to there may not be much foot traffic on those areas of sidewalks and this should be looked into not only for the safety of the motorists but for the safety of the cyclists as well. Other cities do this why not Columbia? After all isn't that what we all want is a safe way to "GetAboutColumbia".

(Report Comment)
Mark Foecking October 8, 2008 | 4:43 p.m.

How often does that happen, though? Once a day? Less? Like I say, usually a cyclist taking the lane is doing it for his safety, and will relinquish it when he is past the danger area. The bus has lost perhaps a minute. Traffic can delay you more than that.

96% of bike/car accidents happen at intersections, and they are often sidewalk and driveway intersections, where the cyclist is not seen. Cyclists are vehicles, and have the same legal rights and responsibilities as cars do. They need to stay on the streets where they can be seen, and they need to abide by traffic laws.

Look up anything by the League of American Bicyclists for information on vehicular cycling. I don't follow all of their recommendations, but their defense of street riding is solid.


(Report Comment)
Charles Dudley Jr October 8, 2008 | 5:34 p.m.

Well Mark if you think I am so wrong you get on the City Transit routes and go talk to all of the bus drivers and ask them. I would even like to see a small team of reporters go ride and talk to the City Bus Drivers and get their views on this issue although the bus drivers names could not be published I do not think but the story would give us a better view on the road sharing issues.
Your statistics can say or you can claim all that you want to since you are obviously a cyclist and will defend that to your death.
Obviously you do not ride the City Transit system nor talk to the drivers as I have in the past since I moved to this city in 2001 and have been a steady transit rider so you do not know the over all consensus of what they have to say while out driving the routes daily. The drivers do talk you know they are not automatons behind the wheel driving with a blank stare.
I do not know it all Mark but I do know what I do see and hear daily from around this community as I go about my day.
I think you are just upset over the fact that combining the sidewalks and bike paths in areas that this might be done in or around is something that will improve upon this issue and improve upon how people move around this city as a whole. What are you against a better way of moving everybody more safely or are you one of those who think your way is the only way it can be done.
How many times do I see cyclists in this city riding with no helmets or reflective vests on? Too damn many!
It is not the vehicle operators sole responsibility to look out for a cyclist but it is the cyclists responsibility to actually ride thinking of those bigger and faster than they are first so they do not cause any problems for the faster moving traffic.

(Report Comment)
Mark Foecking October 8, 2008 | 7:13 p.m.

Sorry, I don't know about the bus. I don't ride the bus because I don't need to.

I'm pointing out that combining sidewalks and bike paths makes it more dangerous for both pedestrians and cyclists. Motorists and cyclists learning to share the road makes it safer for them, while leaving the sidewalks to pedestrians, and those wheelchair users that want to use them.

It's a matter of speed. Especially downhill, a good cyclist can almost keep up with city traffic, and that's a treacherous thing around pedestrians. Even a mediocre cyclist can ride twice to three times as fast as the average pedestrian. Ask some walkers on the MKT what they think about cyclists flying past them.

A bus (or other wide vehicle) has a special problem with cyclists, and they need to understand that a cyclist, legally, has as much right to the road as they do. If a cyclist has to prevent a bus from passing him unsafely, then they should. It's the safest way for a cyclist to ride. This has been shown time and time again. Look it up. You have time.

BTW, there is no requirement to ride with a helmet (unless you're under 16) or a reflective vest. There is a requirement for reflectors, and lights after dark.


(Report Comment)
Charles Dudley Jr October 8, 2008 | 7:18 p.m.

Quote: BTW, there is no requirement to ride with a helmet (unless you're under 16) or a reflective vest. There is a requirement for reflectors, and lights after dark.
Well there should be and it should be a City Ordinance as well for anybody riding a bicycle on a City Street with in the City of Columbia City Limits then IMHO.

(Report Comment)
John Beaumonte October 9, 2008 | 9:19 a.m.

I also am a cyclist and decided to weigh in on this conversation. When you see the green Bike Route signs on the side of the road that should tell you that the road is being shared with bikes. We as cyclists come under the same road rules as drivers and can be penalized for not following the rules just like drivers. The problem is Columbia streets are too damned narrow (Ash, West Blvd, Stewart Rd) to accommodate a bike and a vehicle, especially when a vehicle decides to pass the bike. Compound that with a City bus and it gets even dicier. Good road etiquette needs to be followed but sometimes it is difficult (I'm talking about cyclists) because with the widespread use of cellphones and other distractions (I'm talking about vehicles) it's becoming literally a jungle out there! Tolerance is the key word here. Gas prices will again be going up and more and more of us will be using the streets so drivers need to be willing to share the road and that means paying attention to what's around them. The MKT is another problem with runners and walkers going three deep and we get the stink eye because we dare pass them even with prior warning. Some of you (walkers and runners) need to remember the difference between your right and your left! Sidewalks are for pedestrians and wheel chairs but unfortunately, GetAbout Columbia hasn't figured it all out yet so sometimes we are forced to have to take a sidewalk because a Bike Route is too dangerous even for an experienced cyclist, but as Mark mentioned, it's safer to stay on the road than navigate an intersection. I've bumped into our Mayor (well not literally) and it appears that his route to the office is the MKT so I'm challenging him to get out and use some of the Bike Routes so he can see first hand that getting around Columbia on a bike isn't as easy as he would suggest it is.

(Report Comment)
Charles Dudley Jr October 9, 2008 | 10:32 a.m.

Great post John Beaumonte and thanks for it! The problems with our present sidewalk system is it is not very wheelchair friendly with the huge dips,drops and other hazards to powered wheel chairs and powered scooters so they are often times forced to ride in the road as well. What I said about combining in some areas of the city where it might be able to be done of combining Bike Paths,Sidewalks is nothing new and is done in alot of cities across this entire nation. It is not rocket science you just have to go out and figure out where it can and cannot obviously be done is all. Maybe the City could even get the Students of M.U. to do it through some class project on some Fed Grant for Transportation Studies in the future but just because you or Mark do not like the idea does not mean it is not feasible nor can be done. That is my point.

(Report Comment)
John Beaumonte October 9, 2008 | 11:41 a.m.

I agree with your assessment on our sidewalk system not being wheelchair friendly. I've seen them on Broadway and that's terrible - no chaired person should have to compete on the street with traffic. I agree with combinations where practical but lets face it, if you or I are on a bike on the sidewalk and you or I encounter a walker with a dog on a leash, the potential for an accident is going to be extremely high. Columbia has a lot of pedestrian traffic on sidewalks (depending on the time of day) but experience has shown me that Columbia has a lot of narrow sidewalks, whether it's on the MU campus (where I work) or in older parts of the city and that forces judgement calls on the police as far as enforcement goes. If I have to take a sidewalk because the streeet is too dangerous believe me, it will be for a small amount of time. Perhaps as drivers become more used to seeing cyclists on the streets, the newness will wear off and toleration will set in. Don't get me wrong, most drivers here are very tolerant of busses, cyclists, other vehicles, even pedestrians, it's like anything else, a few bad apples spoil the barrel and I've seen some drivers who shouldn't even be on the road in any form let alone be behind the wheel.

(Report Comment)
Mark Foecking October 9, 2008 | 11:53 a.m.

The high level of pedestrian traffic downtown is why it is illegal to ride on the sidewalks there.

The city has funds slated to fix the sidewalks on Broadway starting soon (I believe as soon as next spring)


(Report Comment)
Charles Dudley Jr October 9, 2008 | 1:08 p.m.

Correct on all John Beaumonte and thank you for posting as such.

Mark I was not nor have been talking about down town or the down town area.

I did say in areas where it could possibly be done and this city has alot of those areas that this can be done if looked at and studied.

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