City Shares Rules for Bicycle Lanes – People Still Upset
This appears to be one of those 'Damned if you do. Damned if you don't.' situations. For several years now Wichita Falls has been working on becoming certified as a Bicycle Friendly City. The latest step in that process was the addition of Shared Use Lanes on some of our streets. You can spot them by the depiction of a bicycle and directional arrow painted on the street surface.
While I have yet to see anyone actually riding on one of those lanes I do understand the purpose. It's to indicate that bicycles are allowed to share the lane with motorized vehicles for recreational or transportation purposes. While most of us have cars and trucks at our disposal there are those who traverse our city by pedal power. These lanes are to be shared.
Once these lanes became established people started to complain. So the City of Wichita Falls Government has shared some general, common sense rules on how cyclists and motorists can get along together on their Facebook page. The comments on their post reveals just how frustrated some people are on both sides of the issue.
At first glance these are pretty much common sense. Follow traffic signs and laws, travel the same direction as motorized traffic, signal your intentions when turning. Just common sense things to keep everyone on the same page.
There seems to be some ... um ... discussion ... however, when it comes to stop signs and red lights. There are lots of comments from drivers about cyclists blowing through stop sings and red lights at breakneck speeds.
One Facebook user wrote:
I can't tell you how many times I've seen stupid bicycles blow right through a stop sign or red light just because there wasn't oncoming traffic. I can't do that in my car just because there's no oncoming traffic. I still have to stop. Not to mention they go soooooo slow. If a car was going as slow and hindering the flow of traffic they'd get a ticket.
Here's the deal, it's illegal for the cyclist to not stop at all in those situations, but a bicycle will not cause a red light to turn green. Seriously, the rider can sit there for an hour and unless the light is on a timer or another vehicle triggers the light to change, it won't. So a cyclist, when presented with a red light and no traffic will generally treat it like a stop sign. Motorcyclists do the same thing. Again, they won't trigger the light to change.
Another driver said she'd just avoid driving on those roads altogether.
I'm just going to avoid the streets altogether. I can find alternatives places to eat and shop. I don't mind that they have share streets for bikers, I just can find new places to go.
While that would avoid any vehicle and cyclist incidents it might prove difficult as you may want to actually visit a business on one of those streets.
The best thing to do is for everyone - cyclists and motorists - to be on their best behavior and learn to live with one another. It's not like there are hundreds of cyclists tying up traffic for blocks and blocks. The city even shared some best practices for how to pass a cyclist when you're driving.
Again, most of these are common sense but some might require a bit of explanation for the non-cyclist.
Please ... PLEASE ... give the cyclist at least three feet of space when you pass. While your two ton car or truck may cruise over a pothole without even spilling your coffee, that same pothole could be disastrous to a cyclists. They don't follow a perfectly straight line because they're avoiding obstacles on the road that you don't even notice. Just give them a little extra room when you pass. In the case of the Shared Use Lanes you've usually got another whole lane to work with anyway.
Another thing for drivers to keep in mind when it comes to cyclists is that it's sometimes really hard to judge their speed. A serious rider can maintain 30 mph or more, just watch the criterium races at the Hotter'N Hell Hundred and you'll be amazed at how fast a bicycle can go. The same is true for a cyclist moving slower than the overall flow of traffic, you'll be on them before you realize it if you're not careful you could find yourself boxed in with another car in the lane to your left.
If you want to know even more about how to share the road with other types of vehicles check out the Texas Guide to Safe Cycling from the Texas Department of Transportation. It's a great guide for the cyclists and will give motor vehicle drivers a better perspective of who else is on the road with them.
The Shared Use Lanes are there for motorized vehicles and cyclists to share for recreation and daily transportation. For some a bicycle is their only alternative to walking, for some it's a lifestyle choice.
As long as there are cars, bicycles, tractors, and who knows what else on our streets and roads there will be times when one gets in the other's way. Just take a breath, do your best to drive politely, and go on about your day.