Letters to the Editor

More letters on bicycling

Bicycle riders are not the only travelers on Carpenter Road who arescared. I have traveled this road for the past 15 years and have becomealarmed by the bicycle riders over the past five years. This is anarrow, twisting back country road with numerous bad sight lines and a45-mph speed limit.

Many times I have rounded a bend and come up on a bicyclist doing 15mph. Now, I’m scared of another motorist plowing into the back of me!This situation has come close to happening more times then I like tothink about.

I also have drivers passing bicyclists on the other side of the doubleyellow line, coming head-on at me in the bends in the road! Then, thereare bicyclists talking on cell phones, riding two abreast and blockingsight-lines of the motorists or in huge groups that you cannot pass,riding before dawn or after dusk and during rush hour. I am waiting fora car crash along this road caused by a bicyclist. Some of these roadsare not designed for vehicles traveling at such disparate speeds due tosight lines. This needs to be taken into consideration by NC DOT andbicyclists.

Denny Sanders

Raleigh

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Bicyclists legally are slow-moving vehicles.

State law prohibits a driver frompassing a cyclist when there is a car in the oncoming lane. Heeding thislaw will save lives. Why do people in cars feel that it is acceptable toharass, frighten, maim or kill another human being simply because she ison a bicycle?

Given America’s obesity rates, the cost of gas, etc., bicycling becomesan even better thing to do every day. Maybe more people should get outof their cars and try it. And why is it a misdemeanor to kill someone ona bike with a car? Would we be any less dead than from a drivebyshooting?

Move over! Slow down! Give us a break!

Alliison Mohr

Wake Forest

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I wonder how you determined how “common” bicycle-car accidents are?

While the two examples discussed are disturbing, I’m not sure how common thesebicycle-car accidents are, especially among cyclists who follow therules of the road.

In these two cases, the drivers of the automobiles appear to be atfault. In almost all cases of bicycle-car accidents, the cyclist getsthe worse of the deal.

While I don’t deny that some cyclists do not feel comfortable ridingalone, another and possibly more accurate portrayal of Triangle bicyclecommuting can be seen by reading The N&O’s”Get Out! Get Fit!” blog byJoe Miller.

John Patrick McGee

Winterville

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Retract the bicyling article

Your article on bicycling should be retracted and republished with aproactive tone instead of the one printed that addressed the danger onlyof bike commuting. This tone will do nothing productive for ourcommunity; rather it is quite destructive.

Your responsibility should be to publish articles of quality, and inthis case you have damaged a critical public effort in the Triangle,which is facing a serious transportation crisis on top of the one facingour nation and world.

Daniel Snyder

Durham

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Cycling’s not the only scary thing out there.

A few other frights:

* Using the label “accident” for crashes, collisions and death byvehicle. “Accident” conveys a judgment that an impact was unavoidable.It’s an excuse used by everyone from toddlers to last week’s drunkendriver to the 17-year old-who jammed on his SUV brakes in front of me in2005. “Mommy, it was a accident.”

* “Misdemeanor” death by vehicle. Was the crash victim only a littledead? It’s scary that law enforcement doesn’t value human life unlessensconced in a steel vehicle.

* The wisdom of a 21-year-old. Which is scarier: that the NCSU studentyou quoted forgot the DMV manual’s chapter on cyclists’ rights (thebicycle has been a vehicle since 1937) or that you picked his comment torepresent the public?

About 41,000 motorists die every year (but they’re only “accidents”). Shouldn’t every driver exercise responsibility for keeping eyes on theroad, mouth off the cell phone and healthy respect for the right ofevery traveler to continue living?

Good things also happen on the cycling scene. Join us (well, those whomanage to survive the road) at a Bike to Work event.

http://www.bikewalkdurham.org/

Dave Connelly

Durham

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Your May 12 article “Cyclists pedal scared on busy Triangle roads” seemed topresume that all cycling in this area is only for recreation. Further,it appeared to take for granted that it is reasonable for cars and bikesto share the road, although there will always be dangerous drivers.

Not mentioned is commuting and the dearth of bike paths in this areathat would encourage commuting. For example, how can a biker get safelybetween Chapel Hill and Durham, a common commute? I suspect many peoplewould readily bike to work if there were paths totally separate fromroads, happy to get exercise and save gas money.

With the current concern about ways to save energy, this very obviousone seems not to get the attention it deserves. One hopes that risingenergy costs will accelerate considerations of building a bike pathinfrastructure in the Triangle.

Ann Stuart

Chapel Hill

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Regarding your May 12 article “Cyclists pedal scared on busy Triangle roads,”there is one important safety device that motor vehicles have and thatmost bicycles don’t. That is a rear-view mirror.

Most motor vehicles have three mirrors, and they have to compete withother vehicles on the road. Bicycles have none and also compete withmotor vehicles, a definite disadvantage, safety-wise.

I feel it’s important to see what is behind you, either in a motorvehicle or bicycle. Is there some sort of stigma associated with bikemirrors?

Vic Quistorff

Raleigh

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As a bicycle rider, I was glad to see your May 12 article “Cyclists pedalscared on Triangle roads.” What puzzled me about your coverage is thatyou broke out the information about cyclists’ responsibilities forspecial attention but made no special effort to highlight drivers’responsibilities.

It’s important for both drivers and cyclists to take theirresponsibilities seriously. But as the two recent incidents in theTriangle show, it is all too often the drivers who need to be more awareof their responsibilities in keeping the streets safe. After all, it’spretty rare for a driver to be killed or severely injured by someone ona bicycle.

David Arneke

Greensboro

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Regarding your May 12 article “Cyclists pedal scared on busy Triangle roads”:

While I am grateful that you attempted to raise awareness among thegeneral population of the hazards of cycling on our roadways, I wasdismayed by the “Bikers’ rights” bullet points. You were correct inpointing out that cyclists are responsible for obeying traffic laws.What might have been more helpful for all of us is some practicalsuggestions of how we might coexist on the road.

I realize that we are all in a hurry and that cyclists can be afrustration to someone late for work, but the fact remains that we haveto learn to share the road. The number of alternative means of transportis increasing daily, and this problem will not go away. Confrontationand violence will not solve this problem. Consideration (from bothsides) and open dialogue will.

I hope people will begin to realize that outdoor activities such ascycling and running are beneficial to all of us in many different ways.We need to work hard to maintain our reputation as a recreation-friendlycommunity.

Tim Devinney

Cary

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The recent article about bicycles in traffic was quick to point out that thebicycle has the legal status of a vehicle and is subject to those laws.You failed to mention motorists’ legal responsibilities. I got thisinformation from gotriangle.org.

Bicyclists may take full use of a travel lane as necessary. Motoristsare required by law to provide 2 feet of passing distance whenovertaking another vehicle; 3 feet is courteous. Motorists should yieldright-of-way to oncoming vehicles, including bikes, before turning leftat intersections or driveways. At intersections, motorists must come toa complete stop and yield the right-of-way to pedestrians and othertraffic, including bicyclists, when making a right turn. Riding on theroad is always legal for cyclists. Riding on sidewalks may beprohibited, and cyclists are not required to ride in bike lanes, or onoff-road bike paths.

For more information you can check out N.C. Department of TransportationBicycle and Pedestrian Division at www.ncdot.org/transit/bicycle. Sharethe road.

Pat Day

Carrboro

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My family,with two sons now grad students at state schools and a husband whorarely commutes by automobile, has tried to use the bicycle (and ourfeet) to get around Chapel Hill and Durham for the 23 years we havelived here.

Your May 15 editorial commented that about 900 bike-motor accidentshappen each year and, in 2006, 20 died. I have also noted a number ofpedestrian fatalities recently. Considering the numbers that appear tobe out there on the streets, using these alternative forms oftransportation, this is a very high ratio. Even then, I suspect thatthese registered numbers are low, especially considering the samplerepresented in my own family.

When my children were middle school-age and did not know that the policeshould be called if a car hit them (assuming that they might have hadcell phones, which they did not), each of them, in separate instances,at separate intersections in town, were hit by a cars while on bikes. Inboth cases, the children were talked into believing that they were atfault (which they weren’t), given bad phone numbers or bad advice andwere left there to deal with broken bikes on their parents’ dime. In onecase, it was a cracked helmet, which could have been a cracked head!

These were children who were taught the rules of the road, how to ridesafely and defensively, by bicycling parents. Most children don’t evenhave that level of instruction. These children were not dare-devils, butshy, sensitive types taken advantage of by college-age adults.

They were very lucky not to end up with more than just scrapes and agood cry.

My husband has also been hit by a car, and just about every cyclist weknow has had some kind of mishap with a car. I believe that most ofthese accidents go unreported.

Good advice is to teach your children bike safety (and provide them witha cell phone and emergency contacts), but this is not enough to protectcyclists. Whenever you have vehicles sharing a road with suchdifferences in speed, there are going to be accidents. Bikes need wide,smooth road shoulders and bike paths, at least delineated by paint, ifnot with guardrail or median separation from the road.

Some will ride bikes (and walk) for health, but I have found it not tobe as healthy as it should be. If the cars don’t kill you, the cortisolin your blood, or the particulates from diesel, certainly will. You willalso lose your ability to hear early as well, as the measure of soundalong a busy road exceeds 80 dB.

The state of North Carolina should be protecting the right and health ofpeople who choose these forms of transportation by providing theappropriate infrastructure.

Sarah McIntee

Chapel Hill

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Thank you for highlighting the plight of Triangle bicyclists in your May 15editorial “Fear of biking.” As a returnee to the area, I was so lookingforward to using my bike for commuting, errands and exercise, as I didwhen I lived in Durham before the population explosion. I have beendisappointed to find poor accessibility for cyclists.

I have to ride 2 miles on roads with no shoulders and heavy traffic, encountering driverswho give bicycles no berth, to reach the nearest bicycle lane. I hold mybreath and keep my eye in the mirror the whole way. Sadly, I choosemostly to leave my bike in the garage.

I am sure there are many outthere who would ride if there were a connected network of bike paths,bike lanes or roads with adequate shoulders. It can be done and shouldbe done to improve safety and quality of life in our communities and toprovide a viable alternative to driving.

Ann Miller

Chapel Hill

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