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My Turn: Cyclists have a right to ride on the road in safety

I am so sickened by the senseless loss of life after a thoughtless and reckless driver killed two cyclists and injured two others taking part in a group ride in Hampton. As a fellow cyclist I can only offer my sincere condolences to those families and maybe try to influence motorist thinking and behavior about sharing the road with bicyclists.

Cyclists have no protection against being hit by vehicles, which is why vehicles owe them extra respect. Just as motorists and cyclists yield to pedestrians, we, as motorists, must also be aware that cyclists have a right to be on the road and have a right to ride safely.

Yes, it can be annoying to have to apply the brakes and wait 3 seconds until it is safe to pass one rider or a group of cyclists, but that is what is required by common sense and the law.

Unfortunately this accident is also a reminder that it is never okay to text and drive. Whether texting was a contributing factor to the Hampton accident is still to be determined, but texting and driving needs to stop now.

Whether controlling this behavior is accomplished by passing a law or by technology that would disable cell phones in moving vehicles, it is time for zero tolerance of texting and driving.

Finally, some motorists do not give enough space when they pass bicyclists.

This is probably more out of ignorance than any intent to scare or harm the rider.

There are some very good signs to educate motorists that could be posted around the state that say “3 feet at 30 mph, 4 feet at 40 mph and 5 feet at 50 mph” for clearance distance when you are passing a cyclist.

Sharing the road is a two-way street, and cyclists can sometimes do a better job of being respectful riders.

But please don’t forget that a person out enjoying a ride does not deserve bodily injury for riding on the road.

(Pam Geiger lives in Hopkinton.)

Legacy Comments15

I am willing to bet that most of those who criticize cyclists haven't swung a leg over a bike and pedaled down a busy road in years. If they had, they would have a vastly different opinion. I, like most, cyclists ride alone so the riding 2 or 3 abreast argument is pretty rare. I try to stay as far to the edge of the road as possible. What drivers of cars don't realize is that that's where the pavement is cracked, glass, nails, sand and other debris has collected, catch basins and shut-off gates are set--all causes of flat tires on bikes. Every ride, cars whiz past me without moving over so much as an inch--even when there is PLENTY of room--as if to make some sort of statement: "this is MY road, get off it!". As to the argument about cyclists not paying taxes for roads, I would guess that 99.9% of cyclists own cars too. And in the same line of thinking, should pedestrians pay to have sidewalks built for them? Again, I wish folks would take their bikes out of the garage or shed, dust it off and go for a ride to "walk a mile in somebody else's shoes".

Bike riders have less right to ride on the road than snowmobiles or four wheelers. The latter two actually pay taxes to ride while the bicycle pays none. The roads were not built nor designed for bike riding. How many people have come around a corner to encounter a group pretending to be racing 3 abreast with a car coming too. What to do, head on collision with a car, drive off the road to hit a tree or do your best to stop but stay in your lane. The only action one ever sees from the spandex clubs are they want the state to let them do what ever they want. Where are the volunteer bike riders offering to paint yellow lines on the roads as a safety lane where there is room? I see many ATV and snowmobile volunteers out during the summer working on trails, yet no bike clubs. Ms. Geiger clearly says it is dangerous but as usual says it is every one else who "owes them" respect to ride as they please.

It is more about the arrogance and militant attitude by many of them.

You think cyclists have a "militant attitude" about them!? They're arrogant, hostile and pretentious? You think that THEY think they're better than everyone else!? They have a chip on their shoulders!? Good grief! What kind of behavior leads you to believe this? That they don't pull over to the side of the road every time a car approaches? Imagine doing that on Rte 132 or Rte 106.

I ride a Trek and I ride on roads where I know there will not be traffic or where I can easily ride in the breakdown lane. I would NEVER ride in traffic with cars in the same lane, that is insanity and really there is no need to do that anyway. People who go to work by bike must have some pretty darned good anti perspirant on. I see cyclists flashing looks at drivers, yelling at drivers, acting as if there are not even cars on the street. In NYC traffic they ride with the cars on the street......pretentious? Yes, many act as if they own the road or feel superior because they are riding a bicycle and not a carbon producing vehicle. They are not in the Tour de France, they are riding on dangerous roads with vehicles weighing 300X their weight including the bike.

Reply to Itsa: No, there is no "need" for me to ride on a road with other cars but I do it for exercise and mostly for pleasure. Just because you won't, doesn't mean no one else should enjoy it either. I've ridden to work a few times when I worked in an office with showers. It's a great way to start the day--watching the sun rise from the seat of a bicycle on a country road. Beautiful! As to your contention about cyclists' attitudes, it sounds like you're talking about the Hell's Angels instead. Cyclists are some of the friendliest people you will meet if you just take the time to say hello. But the most ludicrous comment is that cyclists feel superior for riding a bike. What!? That has never once entered my mind nor of any cyclists I know. We all have cars too. This is what YOU think a cyclist thinks, and nothing more. Try riding on some of the country roads this weekend through the foliage. You just might like it!

I think that cyclists attitude mainly comes from an ideological perspective, most are progressives and I have heard many folks boast that they are so responsible because they are not adding pollution to the environment. Most progressives do have a chip on their shoulder and do feel superior so those cyclists who flash drivers a dirty look like "hey, watch out, I have as much right to the road as you" must be nice little leftists.

Aha, now we've gotten to the heart of the matter. You think that most cyclists are liberals! Well, I don't know about that. I've never talked politics with another cyclists. I can't help but think that if you thought most basketball players or soccer players were liberals then you would find a reason not to like basketball or soccer either.

Wrong!!!!! Everyone has a right to be on public roads. It is the law! I often choose to ride my bicycle to work. I ride by myself, stay to the right and I mind my own business. I sure hope that drivers near me respect my right to be there and don't endanger my life because of some preconceived notion developed by encounters with other cyclists. I also own a car and pay taxes on it. I figure by riding a bicycle, I actually put less wear and tear on the road than if I were driving my car. Thus, I am paying the same as other car owners and doing less damage. How in the world to you get that bikes have less right to be on the road???

I can't understand how people can ride their bike to work, I guess that they must have showers at work. I would hate to be working in the cubicle next to you......but about riding bikes, yes you have equal rights to use the road if you ride a bike but honestly most bikers are pretentious and arrogant and hostile towards drivers. They need to understand that they are no better than anyone else.

The Hampton accident the author of this article refers to has not been connected to cell phone use or texting in any report I have seen. Recently there was another report from Hampton or Seabrook of a group of bicyclists getting all bent out shape when challenged by the Police Chief about their riding behavior. These bicyclists ride with their heads down, not having a clue what's more than two feet in front of them, they pull out directly in front of you and ride in the middle of the road, waiving their pink and orange butts in your face, while thinking the world belongs only to them, having no respect for anyone else on the roads! The stories of accidents you read about are not of inexperienced kids not practicing elementary bicycle safety; it's these aggressive types who think the roads exist only for them. They don't give a hoot if you're walking or driving something that weighs 100,000 pounds, get out of their way, because their attitude is that the bicycle always has the right of way. By the way, try to give a bicycle 3 or 4 feet on the newly configured North State Street, with all the "traffic calming" bumpouts, with out getting a head on from the vehicle coming the other way. These bicyclists, don't care if you are three feet or ten feet away from them, when they swerve out, they expect the vehicle beside them to be able to leap tall buildings in a single bound. I have no sympathy for your cause.

I believe it should be mutual. I commonly drive Rt 127 between Tilton and Contoocook for work. More times that I can recall, riders are not following the same rules they expect of drivers. One group was riding 3 abreast, and refused to allow room for a driver to pass without significantly crossing the yellow line. Plainly put, if you expect to share the road, you must also share the responsibility. Remember, vehicles are a lot bigger and heavier than you, and we have a lot more panic distance to a stop... You have as much to do with your safety, if not more. Perhaps it would be good to take the advise I see on some snowmobile trails... if you can't follow the rules, stay home!

Good post Jvalley! I wanted to add that many if not most of them have an attitude about them. They seem to have this "I have as much right to this roadway as you do" and show no courtesy. Automobiles are much harder to stop than a bike. When I ride my bike with my kids, I ride as far to the right as I can and on dirt roads, pull over and stop when cars approach from behind. Too many times, serious cyclists have flashed dirty looks at drivers or they simply refuse to yield at all. I do see a militant attitude from many, many cyclists. They seem to have a chip on their shoulder.

Here, here, JValley!!!! It's a "two-way street" pardon the pun.

Yes, it can, should, and must be mutual. As for any potentially lethal interaction, I think that two-way education and enforcement are essential. Let's see these issues become fundamentally incorporated into drivers education and potentially life saving cyclists education as well.

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