The problem of America's congested roads has long been simple: too many tires vying for a fixed amount of pavement. But with a growing bicycle culture joining the car culture, the difficulties have expanded greatly. The conveyances now travel at very different speeds, follow different rules of the road and expose their operators to vastly different levels of physical vulnerability.
Let me start with a disclaimer: I am no fan of the car culture. I use buses, trains and my feet, as well as my car. And I'm a fair-weather bicyclist who sticks to routes with little traffic.
But the rise in all-conditions, all-traffic bike commuting is causing considerable anxiety and injury or worse — and for all concerned. Here's a real-life example:
I'm driving at night on a city street with two narrow car lanes. This is a college neighborhood in which students habitually emerge from between parked cars, wearing earbuds and dressed in black.
As I scrutinize the shadows for darting students, a bicyclist materializes on my right. She passes me in the tiny space between my Honda and the parked cars, offering a high sign. I give her a high sign back out of friendliness but also out of relief that I hadn't veered three inches to my right and done her terrible damage.
The cyclist was clearly operating under a set of dangerous assumptions: That I had eyes on the back of my head possessing superhuman powers of peripheral vision. That the extra eyes were wearing infrared goggles able to detect bodies in the dark. That I was not intoxicated or texting or otherwise distracted.
Different dynamics govern bicycle-pedestrian interaction. Amateur cyclists traumatized by motorized traffic often try to share the sidewalks with pedestrians. But when the coast is clear on the road, they whiz through crosswalks, frightening those on foot.
My father was hit by a bicycle going the wrong way down a one-way street. He had looked before crossing, but not in the direction from which no traffic is supposed to come. He ended up in the hospital.
Meanwhile, tragedies befalling bicyclists are legion. In San Francisco, a 24-year-old riding in a bike lane was killed when a truck made a right turn into her. It is really hard for a trucker to see a silent low vehicle coming along the right. When the driver was not cited, controversy ensued.
My sister commutes by bike in Boston and offers accounts of death and near death. A friend died after his bike slipped on the snow and fell under a truck. In this case, no one was really at fault. The story sharply curbed my interest in bike commuting, however, though not my sister's.
You be the judge. I'm driving at rush hour on a busy four-lane with no shoulders at the sides. We're going uphill, and there's a slow-moving bicycle taking up the right lane. Actually, he was doing great, considering the demands of pedaling up a steep slope, but he did slow traffic behind him to 12 miles an hour. Because the hill was long, drivers knew they were in for an extended crawl unless they veered one lane left into the stampeding traffic.
Now, the cyclist has a legal right to be on the road. But he is creating a traffic jam and raising blood pressure all around him.
How does one factor in all the factors? You want to encourage biking, but there really has to be separation from motorized vehicles and pedestrians.
Of course, bicyclists should honor the laws of the road. Harder to enforce, though, are the laws of common sense.
(A member of the Providence Journal editorial board, Froma Harrop writes a nationally syndicated column from that city. She has written for such diverse publications as The New York Times, Harper's Bazaar and Institutional Investor.)
Last Updated on Tuesday, 12 November 2013 09:29
To The Daily Sun,
The letters to the editor lately have been disturbing to read. I have known for a long time that those here in the Lakes Region just plain hate our president, mainly because they know the GOP is sinking like a rock or lower than whale waste. I can hardly wait to see the list of losers that line up to run against Mrs. Clinton. I hope the Obama haters have nightmares every night thinking of Cruz (born in Canada), Cristie (more baggage than a freight train) Paul (OMG) and so on.
The right wingers continue to call the president a liar, how soon they forget the lies of the Bush administration. I will remember forever that Bush lied — thousands dead and wounded and so soon FORGOTTEN.
I was pleased to read today that help is on the way for those suffering with a form of mental illness. A addition is being planned at a local hospital for mental patients, so have faith right wingers ,you will be able to get insurance for pre-existing conditions.
Last Updated on Tuesday, 12 November 2013 04:45
To The Daily Sun,
I wish someone in charge of the State Highway Department would start making good decisions when it comes to winter road maintenance. We just got our first snow, a very wet, slushy 1-2 inches on Sunday, and plow trucks were out plowing and salting everywhere. I watched at least a dozen trucks from Holderness to Thornton plowing nothing but bare, wet pavement, and salting roads all over. I can understand plowing Interstate 93, etc., but every road? It's ridiculous!
It appears many district foreman do not use any common sense this time of the year. First of all, the ground isn't even close to being frozen. Secondly, the forecast (readily available anywhere) calls for temps in the low 40s. On days like this, this time of the year, mother nature can work faster than plows and salt. I saw people's lawns melting just as fast as the roads, the only snow left at the day's end were the tiny snow banks the plows made (if any). What a waste of time, material, and tax dollars. What ever happened to letting people actually learn how to drive in winter? Give drivers some responsibility. There are only a few ding dongs that drive like idiots, they shouldn't be out or if they go off the road, it's their fault. A lot of times, the salt just makes a bigger mess.
It's no wonder why the state is always going over budget on winter highway maintenance. The guys behind the wheel are only doing what they are told, it's the people telling them what to do that are making the bad decisions. What a waste of money.
Last Updated on Monday, 11 November 2013 10:10
To The Daily Sun,
Senator Shaheen and Rep. Shea-Porter voted for Obamacare. Period
We do not like Obamacare . Period
We do not accept President Obama's apology on Obamacare. Period
Last Updated on Monday, 11 November 2013 10:06
To The Daily Sun,
I would like to thank all of the voters in Ward 6 for the large turnout. It was wonderful — "452!
THANK YOU, THANK YOU, THANK YOU.
If you see a problem in Ward 6, please call me.
Councilor Armand Bolduc
Ward 6 - Laconia
Last Updated on Wednesday, 31 December 1969 07:00