Thursday, June 24, 2010

It Just Don't Work

Ahhh, spring has blessed us with warmer, more comfortable weather and we've transitioned to summer. Which always brings out the cyclists on the road.

I'm probably gonna piss off some people here, but I don't really care. I think you've lost your mind if you want to ride across the country on a bicycle. Let's look at why.

To my point of view, cyclists have an entitlement view about their rights on the road. "Share the Road," they say. The laws support cyclists - they have just as much right to use the whole road as any other vehicle. I say they've just had great lobbyists.

I don't have a problem with bike trails and paths, or biking in the city - what I have trouble dealing with is cyclists sharing a high speed road with the rest of the motoring public. Differences in speed is the major cause of accidents. You can't get much different than ten to fifteen mph vs sixty five or seventy. I'm sorry, but that is true. Unless you are Lance Armstrong - then maybe your speed differential isn't so dangerously large. But, while most of the bikers out there are in pretty damn good shape - they aren't out there pedaling at a high rate of speed. They're just trying to endure for a day - and I gotta give 'em credit - I couldn't do it.

So, just for argument's sake, let's compare some vehicles. Let's say granny or grampa is out there tooling along at ten mph on a two lane. Mile after mile. What do you suppose eventually happens? There are minimum speed laws, and driving in an unsafe manner is always an open ended rule - they're gonna get a ticket for driving too slow for the conditions.

Or look at the Amish in their buggies. They tool along about the same speed as cyclists. What about them? They get to use the roads - but - they have to have slow moving vehicle signs mounted and safety lights for inclement weather or other poor lighting conditions - such as after dark. I've seen 'em with a ton of reflective tape as well.

Or farm equipment - what about those guys? Most equipment runs fifteen to twenty odd mph - some Gleaner combines can crank it up to thirty, but guess what? Slow moving vehicle signs and flashers plus turn signals have to be on. Moving after dark? Not so much.

Safety. When I come blasting around a curve with a wide load, using the shoulder to keep from hanging out into oncoming traffic, the last thing I want to see is a bunch of cyclists tooling along on the shoulder or better yet - down the center of the highway. My company has paid the taxes to allow me to drive on that road, and we've paid for the permits to use that shoulder and haul a wider load than normal. How much have the cyclists contributed to the state coffers to do the same?

Most of the time the cyclists are on a super two highway at least, and they pretty well stay on the shoulder to ride. However, when I'm going by a group with several hugging the "fog line (the white line outlining the right side of the lane)," it really isn't safe for me to stay in the lane and pass them with only couple feet to spare. I'm sure the turbulence is probably breathtaking. This means I'll be shutting down and easing into the oncoming lane when it's clear. If we're talking a narrow two lane - I and every other motorist have to deal with passing each little cluster of bikers - and who knows how many there will be.

Another safety hazard is the support vehicle. I don't know how many times I've come upon one driving in the main lane beside a small group and talking to them through the window. No flashing lights or slow moving vehicle sign - but I'm urged to share the road among other messages in graphics on the rear. I'd like to see how they'd react to me tooling along that slow in their city when they ain't ridin' no bike - holding them up. I'm sure that's different. If granny were driving a van that looks just like it down the road that slow - well, we all know she's gonna get stopped eventually. Even if she does vote.

But Jeffro - they're maximizing their inner selves or some such voyage of self expression. Fine - works for me, but your journey of self expression just cost me and everyone else out there a bunch of time. It cost my company fuel mileage. Shutting that rig down and getting it rolling again is throwing any fuel efficiency out the window. As well as every car or pickup that has to slow down and speed back up multiple times. Every vehicle involved just polluted the air even more due to their presence. So don't give me a "green" purpose for their "mission." Multiply the extra fuel burned by the sheer amount of cars and trucks that have been interrupted in their travel in just one day, plus the extra pollution, and the cost of everyone's time - bet it ain't cheap. If I decide my right to free expression includes shutting down my rig blocking a highway during rush hour traffic crosswise for an hour or so while I finger paint in the nude - well, I kinda think it would be a long sleeved white canvas jacket with arms that tie in the back for me. Even if it was only for an hour or so, possibly equaling the time and fuel costs associated with a large group in a day. Cyclists going across the country do basically the same thing for weeks - as far as opportunity costs go.

I guess I'm just blowing off some steam - I know that anything I say or feel will have absolutely no effect on the situation. I'm professional enough to give them all the room I can. I really don't have any solutions, either. Should the states require escort vehicles equipped with flashing lights? They do for us, under certain conditions. Should cyclists have the right of way for the whole road? AFAIC - only if they're in a vehicle capable of running at the 85th percentile of the normal speed of that road - which pretty well rules them out - period.

All I know for sure is that there is a good chance that I could run over or hit some of these travelers "finding themselves" just because there was not enough time or space to get shut down, and I don't like it at all. An alien head bike helmet and sweat wicking aerodynamic tights aren't gonna be much protection from me, should it come down to brass tacks.


Earl said...

This post should get printed out in all the bicycling magazines, all of them. It is bad enough that the children don't ride their bikes with the laws of the road, but the adults are really strange.

I have been watching them conquer mountains in Wyoming - but not on the roads you would be using.

Neil said...

I agree, great lobby (see attached) the secretary of Transportation is against us.


Bob's Blog said...

What Earl said.

Jinglebob said...

Damn straight!

When I went to Cheyenne a month ago, I went south of Crawford and they were having some bike rally or race. Must have been close to a hundred of them, scattered along quite a stretch., Me pulling a 22 foot gooseneck stock trailer. I'd pull into the other lane as much as possible, but I bet I made some of their eyes bug out!

Looks like they could have had a big warning sign letting us know about what was going on and for how many miles!

Anonymous said...

Couldn't agree more. I've ranted about this (incoherently) many times, mostly in my head as I'm driving. You don't get to say "Share the road!" if you can't PLAY BY THE POSTED RULES OF THE ROAD, and mainly that means being able to *do the SPEED LIMIT* on that road. We have idiots cycling here on a 50mph two-laner with NO shoulder and a double-yellow and they cause ACCIDENTS. Selfish pricks.

Lisa Paul said...

I sort of see your point, although I met some incredible people who were cycling across the country -- including a 70 year old grandpa. Most carefully planned their routes based on bike lanes, wide shoulders and other elements that would get them out of the main traffic. Sort of wish we could have separate lanes areas for this slower moving traffic that would allow a safer cross-country or cross regional bike trek.

That said, when I drove my early model, very slow, very small Prius, you better believe I understood the onus was on me, on the highway, to be alert and get the hell out of the way. With even the most careful and alert trucker, I could slip right into a dozen blind spots. I even started routing long trips to plan for avoiding heavy truck travel routes and times. Just something you have to do when you drive a sardine can.