Tuesday, October 11, 2005

We need real bicycle lanes.

Gail Alef, a cyclist hit by the driver of a Nissan 300ZX on Willows Road (my old commute), has died at Harborview today. Willows has a narrow bicycle lane that isn't often kept clear of pebbles and dirt (making it hazardous for riding), and can't accommodate a group.

This is a fairly serious problem. Bicycles, even lit, flashing, whatever, aren't very visible. I was hit last year because a driver turning left across traffic simply didn't see me coming. I've had a few close calls where drivers stuck the nose of their car out into the street when waiting to turn, right across a bike lane.

Is bicycle safety not taught when drivers get their license? Is there a problem with enforcement? This driver faces at least a vehicular assault charge, but the driver who hit me did not (although he was ticketed). Is this just cultural? We're very worried about paving I-5 at the moment, but there are roots up through the Burke-Gilman trail in many places. The windshear across I-90 makes the bike path there incredibly dangerous, but it gets no attention - nor does anyone seem to keep track of the users of these systems.

As oil becomes more expensive, perhaps we'll see a paradigm shift. We're already seeing people have real trouble paying for $3/gallon gas, and we're not even up to what Europeans pay. What happens when it's $6?


At 3:15 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I have a huge problem with this. I think every person who takes a driving test needs to be taught about looking out for bicyclists/motorcyclists.

When I took the written test to get my endorsement, there were tons of things in it advising riders in making themselves visible. On the written test for drivers though, there was nothing. It was really upsetting.

At 3:15 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

This was schmi from LJ btw.

At 8:55 PM, Anonymous Thomas C. said...

In a perfect world, bikes, cars, and busses would all have separate lanes. But since this isn't a perfect world, I'll leave the details up to more knowledgeable people. Bike lanes would not be unwelcome!

I agree that drivers need to pay more attention to bikers, but the reverse is also true. I've been in vehicles a number of times (not always driving) when the car is making a turn and a bicycle has almost been hit because they've been riding on the sidewalk and are trying to cross at a crosswalk. Many drivers just don't SEE bicyclists when they're on the sidewalk... and they can seemingly zoom out of no-where 10x faster than a pedestrian.

The lesson here is that both parties share the burden of being careful: bikes should watch out for turners, and drivers should pay more attention to bikes on the sidewalk!

I agree with your comments regarding 'paying attention' to bikers; it seems we just don't care right now. I'd guess that bikers are considered to be a minority, and hobbyists ("They could always just drive or ride the bus!") to boot, and therefore their needs are no-where near as important as those of the common SUV-driver.

At 2:16 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

No doubt, drivers need to learn about sharing the road with bikes. What's so disturbing about this incident, though, is that it doesn't seem to be an accident. From written reports, it looks as if the driver was aggressively aiming for the group of cyclists. He's been charged w/vehicular homicide--not manslaughter.


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