Cyclists more at risk than car drivers

In a recent letter to Xpress, Howard Shepherd asserts that if "cyclists want to be taken seriously as vehicles" then they must act like vehicles, obeying the same traffic laws as cars, trucks and SUVs [Jan. 6]. In almost all respects, his point is well taken. The easiest way for me and my road bike to avoid becoming a tangled mess of teeth, intestines and bloody steel is to ride to the right, signal clearly and light up at night. As a bicycle enthusiast, however, I take these precautions only to survive on roads made for automobiles. For Shepherd to suggest that bicycles should behave politely because they are vehicles like cars ignores the reality that not all vehicles are created equal.

Cyclists accommodate cars as a matter of life and death, and recognize that we share the road on unequal terms. Cars are faster, heavier and less maneuverable than bicycles — and there are a lot more of them on the road. Whether or not he or she follows the rules, a cyclist will always have more to lose when an absentminded driver pulls a fast right turn. Accidents happen even when a bike rider is doing everything "correctly."

Drivers get frustrated when cyclists cause them to slow down, take caution and maybe wind up a little late. Cyclists have much more at stake.

I don't believe that reckless riders are the reason that drivers toss their trash at cyclists. [But] there is no excuse for sloppy, dangerous road rage. If Shepherd is to generalize and condemn all the "folks like Mr. Craig" [Christopher Craig, author of "Finding Equilibrium," a Dec. 9, 2009 Xpress commentary], perhaps he should also indict each and every motorist for endangering those on two wheels. An ignorant driver is playing with a much more dangerous machine than is an ignorant cyclist.

— Gabriel Karabell

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