There’s no question that bicycles are popular around here. The Burke-Gilman and Sammamish River trails draw bicyclists (and walkers) daily. Redmond even has a velodrome for bicycle racing.
However, a problem often arises when bicyclists must share the road with motorists. Most of our roads aren’t built for both.
That became all too apparent last weekend in Seattle when a bicycle activity, which calls itself Critical Mass, took to the streets in its monthly demonstration to call attention to bicyclists road rights.
At one point, a motorist in his car became entangled with the crowd of bicyclists. It gets confusing after that. Some say the motorist lurched forward then back, hitting several bicyclists. Others say the bicyclists surrounded the motorist, damaged his car and hit him on the head.
The bottom line is that several people went to the hospital to have injuries treated.
By law, bicycles are allowed on roadways. But that doesn’t mean it’s always the best idea. Anyone driving our congested streets knows that a bicycle going 5 mph on a road with a 35 mph limit is going to cause problems. There’s often no open lane into which the motorist can move. And motorists aren’t comfortable trying to slide past the bicyclist in the same lane. We doubt bicyclists are too comfortable with that, either.
What often results is hot tempers. And bad feelings.
One solution is more bicycle lanes. Cities are adding more and more of these, but not every street has the room to add such a lane.
When there’s no room, bicyclists should consider not using the street, especially in a hilly area when it’s impossible to maintain the posted speed.
Bicyclists also should realize that it’s not a good idea to ride side-by-side, even in bicycle lanes. There’s often not enough room for two, thus pushing one of the riders out into a traffic lane.
Motorists must do their part, too. They need to share the road and accept that sometimes someone is going to be going slower than they are. In fact, it often is another car. No one tries to squeeze that driver off the road.
The surprising thing is there likely is not much overall time lost by a motorist caught behind a bicyclist. Within a few seconds, a spot will come when the bicyclist can move over or the car can pass.
For either side to force the issue by assuming the road is all theirs is asking for trouble and, as we saw in Seattle, needless injuries.