Columbia, Missouri – known as “The Berkeley of the Ozarks” – has passed a law against road-raging against bikers.
My jury is still out on the law itself – stupid road rage is stupid road rage, no matter who it’s aimed at.
But this op-ed in the Wichita paper touches on some preconceptions that need to get looked at:
Imagine if you will, cruising down the street in your car when you come upon several bicyclists heading the same direction that you are going. It’s a busy street and they are riding two and maybe even three wide, and you’re not able to get around them for quite some time. What do you do?
That does depend on local laws. Bikes are entitled to half a lane and three feet of clearance in Minnesota (assuming I have it correct). They’re also well-advised to clear out of the way of traffic, into the parking lane, if people are piling up behind them; tense drivers are dangerous drivers.
You might decide to hit your horn to encourage them to move over a bit. You may shout at them, telling them to get off of the road, or, as you finally do pass them, you may extend a hand and a certain finger while yelling obscenities at them. Now I would never endorse nor do the two latter ones, there have been plenty of times when my horn was put into effect.
As of this past Monday, all of those reactions could cost a heavy fine or even land you in jail for up to a year over in Columbia, Mo. The Columbia City Council passed an ordinance prohibiting such road rage geared towards bicyclists. Don’t be surprised if that trend starts to take hold here in Kansas, especially over in Lawrence.
Enh. Road rage should be illegal, no matter who the target is. Bikers are more vulnerable, since we’re not wrapped in a ton of metal, but rage is rage.
But here’s where we get into preconceptions:
I understand that road rage is high, especially against bike riders. The general knowledge, or I should say, what everyone thinks concerning bicyclists may be wrong. They do have a right to the road just as much as cars do. I don’t have a problem with that. What I have a problem with is the fact that bicyclists are supposed to follow the same rules as cars do.
Stopping at stop signs and red lights. Signaling when turning.
Well, no kidding. I mean, bikes are vehicles, and they should act like vehicles – right?
I mean, just like the semis on Summit Avenue have to follow “turn on red” rules, and dirt bikes on University Avenue have to mind the speed limit, and mopeds are allowed to use the shoulders on the freeway just like MTC buses, and bicycles have to maintain proper clearance on the freeways!
Well, no – semis aren’t allowed on Summit, dirt bikes aren’t allowed on the street until you slap a lights and signals on ’em, and mopeds aren’t allowed on the road at all (much less freeway shoulders), and bicycles aren’t allowed on the Interstate.
Vehicles are not one size fits all, even in the eyes of the law. They have different rules.
I’m an advocate of the Boise Stop rule, in which bikes are allowed to treat stop signs as “Yield” signs, and stoplights as stop signs. It doesn’t change the rules of the road – just makes them safer. Intersections where cars and bikes aren’t mingling about as fake equals are just plain safer. Having bikes and cars trying to accelerate out of corners together is bad news – getting through or out of intersections is always good if you’re a biker – and that doesn’t even address the stress injuries caused by sitting too long at pointless lights, letting ones’ muscles get all cold, then heated up, then cold again.
So yeah, bikers should follow the rules. But the rules should make sense, too.