Saturday, August 15, 2009

Oklahoma bicycling news

I came across two items of local interest. The first is from the Enid News and Eagle.

Excerpts follow:

Enid police say cyclists, pedestrians also must be just as vigilant as motorists on city roadways

By Cass Rains, Staff Writer
Sat, Aug 15 2009

People using Enid’s roadways are urged to exercise more caution and abide by the rules of the road.

Four fatalities have occurred on Enid roads this year, two this month.

“Motorists need to devote and pay attention when approaching slow-moving traffic, such as pedestrians and bicycles,” Enid Police Department Lt. Eric Holtzclaw said.

...People riding bicycles on Enid roads are required to follow the same rules as someone driving a car, he said.

Law requires bicyclists to “ride as close as is safe to the right-hand curb or edge of the roadway.” The law allows for exceptions such as debris or surface hazards, pedestrian or animals and parked vehicles.

...Oklahoma law requires vehicles passing a bicycle in the same direction to leave a distance of no less than three feet.

Holtzclaw said bicyclists need to ride on the far right of the road, with the flow of traffic, and in single file, not side by side.

Being the curious type, I went to the City of Enid website and found their local ordinances. As it turns out, Enid does have a mandatory sidepath law (Ord. 2004-28, 9-7-2004). In Oklahoma, this is a local option, not a state wide requirement.

But then we get to that pesky 'as far right as practicable' language. Enid's is just slightly different.

"A. Due Care: Every person operating a bicycle upon a roadway shall ride as near to the right side of the roadway as practical, exercising due care in passing a standing vehicle or one proceeding in the same direction" and "C. Riding Two Abreast: Persons riding bicycles upon a roadway shall not ride more than two (2) abreast, except on paths or parts of roadways set aside for the exclusive use of bicycles."

Let's give the good Lt. Holtzclaw credit for actually getting the intent of the law right when he said that cyclists are to ride as far to the right as is safe. This is a better choice of words than the unfortunate "practicable" or Enid's "practical" and it's the current form of the Oklahoma state law. "As far to the right as is safe" means every cyclist is entitled to ride in the lane in such a manner as to maximize his own safety. This doesn't mean he hugs the fog line because that is most definitely an unsafe position.

But then the good Lieutenant blows it by saying cyclists need to ride on the far right of the road and they must ride single file. They cannot ride two abreast. Enid doesn't have a law that prohibits riding two abreast. It says we cannot ride more than two abreast. If an overtaking motorist has to slow down or cross the centerline in order to pass a cyclist safely, he's not going to be more inconvenienced by cyclists riding side-by-side as opposed to single file. He still has the obligation to slow down and pass only when it's safe. When cyclists ride single file - especially if they're on the far right of the road - motorists will pass without changing lanes or straddling the center line. This is certainly convenient for motorists, but it's a hazard for cyclists. Safety always trumps convenience.

Like many in law enforcement, Lt. Holtzclaw seems to place a higher priority on traffic volume or throughput rather than cyclist's safety. It's not uncommon for motorists to be unaware of cycling laws, and indeed some of them are quite capable of inventing imaginary ones. But its unfortunate when law enforcement is ignorant of bicycling law and the best practices that cyclists can use to improve their safety on the road. This is not meant as a condemnation of Lt. Holtzclaw and the Enid Police Department. Instead, it's an indicates the minimal penetration of cycling law and best practices throughout the public. It tells those of us in advocacy there's a long, steep climb ahead.

This next piece was in today's Tulsa World. It's a small excerpt from a story about bridge and road improvements. Two of them - Old North Road and Avery Drive - are part of the Wednesday night ride route. Recently, that ride has been producing some conflicts between area residents, motorists, and cyclists.

Bridge, paving projects touted
West Tulsa County should have two new bridges and two repaved roads by year's end.

By GAVIN OFF World Data Editor

By the end of the year, west Tulsa County residents should welcome two new bridges and two newly repaved roads, one of which would have a bicycle lane, officials said Friday.

...Crews will repave the Old North Road from Adams Road to 81st West Avenue, just north of Sand Springs. The project will continue south on 81st West Avenue to about 10th Street.

Jordan said the repaving, which will likely begin next month and be finished within 30 days, is estimated to cost between $180,000 and $200,000.

It includes a 6-foot-wide bicycle lane, he said.

"Old North Road is very crooked," Jordan said. "It winds, and when you have people driving faster than they're supposed to on a crooked road, they can come up on bicyclists real quick."

A final west county project will repave Avery Drive from Chandler Park to Oklahoma 97. Jordan said that project should start in October and cost about $225,000.

This immediately caught my attention:
"Old North Road is very crooked," Jordan said. "It winds, and when you have people driving faster than they're supposed to on a crooked road, they can come up on bicyclists real quick."

So, the 'solution' is to attach a bike lane to one side of the road in order to facilitate those drivers who choose to speed? They're still going to overtake too fast. Maybe a better solution would be to spend the money on speed enforcement, you know, those people we pay to enforce the law for the safety of the general public. Also, I suspect this 'solution' will only increase the friction between cyclists and motorists. You see, the bike lane will be installed on just one side of the road. This lures cyclists into wrong way riding, and we can be certain that some area motorists will 'encourage' cyclists to use that lane regardless of their direction of travel.

You can attack a problem like this from the engineering end by making the roadway less amenable to speeding. Make it more narrow and winding. Throw in some bumps and potholes. Add those engineering features that serve to calm traffic. But putting a bike lane in so people can drive faster is simply asinine.

Or you can attack it from the law enforcement end. Isn't that one of the first complaints about cyclists - that we don't follow the law? Here's a wonderful opportunity to demand that motorists obey the law, rather than spend a big chunk of public money to enable them to go even faster.



Blogger Rantwick said...

Those were classics, thank you. I especially the accomodate speeders measures.

11:18 PM  
Blogger Rantwick said...

**I especially liked the...

11:19 PM  

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