Life in the Bike Lane column

Bike lanes only?
By: Tom Frady
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Last week in this publication, Ed Carper, a long-time Loomis resident, laid out exactly why bike riders enjoy riding in Placer County, in a well-written piece (Another View, “Not all roads are suitable for bike riding”).  He also made the important point that there are all types of bike riders, with different objectives and skill levels.  

I appreciated his concern for bike riders’ safety and the “tone of his voice.” 

I get it. Bike riders, whether Lycra-clad cyclists or the dad in street clothes out with his kid, get in the way of drivers, even when the riders are doing everything right. 

Add to that the fact not all riders ride predictably or follow all the laws all the time, it’s no wonder drivers get nervous.  I do, too.

I don’t think riders feel they “have the right” to run stop signs. While no excuse, most riders evaluate the scene, determine it is safe to keep rolling and do so. 

And there may be a bit of laziness involved. If a rider stops, he has to use extra energy to build up speed again. Any rider who responds to a driver with the “one finger salute” is a jerk and probably drives his car like he rides his bike. 

Mr. Carper sees a need to revise some of the rules of the road, including confining cyclists to bike lanes only, for their safety and the improvement of traffic flow in the area. No one gets mad at bowlers, baseball players or NASCAR drivers for getting in the way because those sports have their “designated areas” for participation.

First, confining the avid cyclist to bike lanes would be like telling a surfer he may only use water parks. 

Second, with a few exceptions, local jurisdictions may not change the laws set by state codes.

Let me be clear. I have advocated in this space more than once the need for dedicated, even protected bike lanes in our suburban areas (note the name of this column).  But unless there is money and the will to widen roads such as Horseshoe Bar or English Colony to add bike lanes, riders and drivers will need to share the road. 

While we are talking money, let me correct a common misconception about bike riders: that is, they don’t pay taxes for roads, therefore, have less right to them. Virtually every bike rider also owns a car, therefore, pays gas taxes like everyone else. Our gas taxes aren’t enough to pay for all roads.  As much as 50 percent of the cost comes from property taxes, bonds and the General Fund. Bike riders pay all the local, state and federal taxes everyone else does. We are not a separate entity.

While it is true that roads are designed for cars, it hasn’t always been that way.  Roads were first paved for bike riders in the 1890s. Many of Placer’s country roads date back 150 years. This is, indeed, a driver-centric country.  But I would suggest moving great masses of cars from here to there at the highest possible speeds need not be the goal of most Western Placer County roads. 

So what are we to do? 

Drivers, my plea to you is be patient and slow down.  Don’t make an unsafe pass to save the few seconds. Drive our country roads like there might be a cyclist (or a deer) around every corner. Always follow the law and read this column to learn more about cycling. 

If you are on a bike, be sure you are wearing bright clothes and have lights fore and aft, even during the day.  Always follow the law.  If you are unsure, it’s easy to find information about bike laws online or at the Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV). 

Bikers, choose your routes carefully.  For instance, my riding group avoids most of English Colony.  Don’t take your wobbly-riding kid on narrow, hilly roads.  Your significant other may not find sharing the road with big trucks on his or her cruiser bike romantic.

And always wear your helmet. 

Tom Frady is a Lincoln resident and avid cyclist and driver.