Friday, July 25, 2008

Don't try this at home, or anyplace else

What's up lately with wrong-way bicycling in Louisville? Yesterday, I saw at least five bicyclists riding against traffic on one-way streets or riding on the left side of 2-way streets. This morning, I saw two others. I see bicyclists of different races, ages, and apparent economic status levels riding against traffic everywhere from Northwestern Parkway in Portland to Frankfort Avenue in Crescent Hill.

Wrong-way bicycling is one of the top three ways that bicyclists get themselves killed by cars. The others are bicycling while intoxicated (no joke!) and riding at night without adequate lights. I consider all three suicidal. There is never a good excuse for doing any of them.

Most readers of this blog probably already religiously avoid wrong-way riding. You can use the following list to help educate others. If you even occasionally ride against traffic, please read on to see if this will help you change your mind and your bicycling practice.

Top 7 reasons NEVER to ride against traffic:
7) If you crash into someone else, you will most likely be held at fault. In other words, wrong-way riders give away their legal rights. If you like the idea of crashing with a car and then having to pay to get the car fixed, then wrong-way riding is for you.

6) Many traffic signs and signals will be difficult or impossible for you to see. If you ride the wrong way on a 1-way street, you will see only the back side of the traffic signals, so you won't know when traffic on the side street has the green light. Most Stop, Yield, and other traffic signs are posted on the right side of the street, so it will be easy for you to miss them and get into a crash with someone who is abiding by the laws.

5) You might collide with a bicyclist riding the correct way. If a right-way rider comes toward you and you avoid colliding, you might force one another into a curb, parked car, or moving car. If you cause a law-abiding cyclist to crash by riding on the wrong side of the street, you also risk the wrath of said law-abiding cyclist. For heaven's sake, NEVER ride against traffic in a bike lane! This is a real recipe for crashing with another cyclist.

4) Being able to see cars coming toward you doesn't help! Most urban and suburban streets have concrete curbs that will keep you from getting out of the way of an oncoming car. You see the car coming, and then you are trapped.

3) If you get hit, you will probably suffer more severe injuries because your speed and the motor vehicle's speed add up. A 35-mph car strikes a 12-mph bicyclist from behind at 35-12= 23 mph. A 35-mph car strikes an oncoming 12-mph bicyclist at 35+12=47 mph - twice as fast, with dramatically higher chances of severe or fatal injury.

2) The speed argument in #3 also means that drivers will have only one-third to one-half the time to see you and react to your presence as they would if you were riding in the same direction as the motor vehicles in your lane. If you think that too many drivers fail to notice you when you ride with traffic, just imagine what will happen when you give them only half the time to notice you.

1) A wrong-way cyclist crosses every driveway and street from the opposite direction that drivers on that driveway or street normally look to see crossing traffic. Wrong-way cyclists make themselves difficult or impossible for crossing drivers to see, because the roads are set up with the assumption that everyone drives or rides on the right-hand side. Coming toward a crossing driver from the wrong direction drastically increases chances of a crash.

Spread the word: Don't ride against traffic! Riding against traffic triples your chances of a crash, increases the likelihood of serious injuries, and makes you at least partially liable in case of a crash. If we could rid our region of this one common bicyclist mistake, our bicycle crashes, injuries, and deaths would probably drop by 30-50%.

1 comment:

dave said...

Barry, glad to see you posting a little more now.

I have seen a lot of wrong-way cycling recently, even downtown. I would guess that half are just ignorant of the danger, and the other half don't want to travel another block to go the right way on a one-way street.

I don't know. I can understand an extra block when walking, but it's so much easier when traveling 15mph on a bike. I often feel like I'm a car (only slower), especially on my 'bent (I keep reach for a seatbelt) :)