Bicycle riders are of two minds about state legislation to have them ride no more than two abreast on the highway - and, when car drivers are itching to get past them, to squeeze into single file.
State Rep. Nelson Cole of Reidsville says his proposal is inspired by stories of close calls and screeching brakes. Drivers worry, he says, about the hazards of suddenly meeting cyclists in wide packs on narrow roads.
Cole is co-chairman of a House-Senate committee that will meet today to consider whether to back his proposal and other transportation bills in the 2010 legislative session that starts Wednesday.
Some bike riders - call them doctrinaire cyclistas - will never yield an inch on existing traffic laws that generally give bicycles equal status with cars and trucks.
Of course, bicycles are NOT equal to cars in size, speed, equipment or visibility. And while you don't hear debates about automobiles going side-by-side, there is room for discussion about when and why two-wheelers travel that way.
"As a longtime cyclist, I find riders staying three abreast dangerous and rude," said Steve Holmes, 49, of Wake Forest. While there were a few dissenters among the dozen or so bikers who commented on the legislation, most told the Road Worrier they would not object to a two-abreast limit.
But Holmes and others say cyclists must use their judgment about when to hug the shoulder and when to spread out in pairs - even if it means testing the patience of faster four-wheelers.
Bike safety classes train cyclists essentially to hog the lane in a situation where it would be risky for a motorist to pass, such as on a hill or curve. Limiting this option for cyclists would give motorists the wrong idea, says Anne Bacon of Raleigh.
"Once the state passes a law to require cyclists to move into a single line, the driving public will expect that in every case, and they will expect cyclists to move over right away," said Bacon, 40. "Those expectations are not safe."
Safety in numbers
Several bike riders said they would be more likely to accept restrictions if they were paired with a requirement that cars maintain a three-foot clearance when they zoom past bicycles.
"It is very scary getting buzzed while riding," said cyclist Rich Hunt, 47, of Apex. "Oddly enough, large-group rides rarely get buzzed, but I am buzzed regularly when riding by myself."
A few motorists said the proposed legislation would make it easer to pass cyclists who take up too much of the road. Michael J. MacDonald of Whispering Pines sometimes gets stuck behind cyclists riding three or four abreast - slowly - on rural roads in Moore County.
"I think North Carolina's law equating bicycles with automobiles and trucks is absurd," MacDonald said.