What’s a biker to do?

So there I am at a friend’s birthday party. I’d biked there, as it was within my two-mile rule: “If it’s within two miles of my nearly downtown home, the weather is fine and I have no kids to haul, then I should ride my bike.” To be clear, I’ve been riding my bike in WNC since 1978, and I ride most days of the week.

So I’m riding home from downtown. Yes, I’m wearing white, so I’m visible. Oh yeah, my bike has reflectors, lights, and I’m over 6 feet tall. … I work on the principle of being highly visible. Despite that and following every traffic law, rule and general idea possible, I was nearly run over by a taxi at a well-lit intersection—Hilliard and French Broad.

The Asheville Police Department said that they will “admonish” any driver fitting the description I gave. One taxi company was willing to consider that they do have a few cabs painted in that distinctive color scheme, but they were lackadaisical in even considering if they’d do anything at all.

This says to me what I’ve known for 20 years: The only way we are going to find justice as bicyclists is to do something about it ourselves. … I’ve kicked a few cars in my time (when I was wearing boots while I biked). You can always give the APD a license-plate number—that they will do what with? It is clearly illegal to hit the vehicle with your bike lock. For some reason, it is illegal to strike back at those who nearly kill you, but it is legal to nearly kill you. This is not a suggestion to do something illegal, but an acknowledgement as to how ineffective and misguided APD [can be].

So what was I to do after the taxi driver cussed me out for his nearly flattening me at a well-lit traffic [signal] when I had the obvious right-of-way and was highly visible? Somehow APD’s assurances that they will “admonish” the driver bring no hope. As if I’d expected it.

— Andy Weatherly
Asheville

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25 thoughts on “What’s a biker to do?

  1. Cheshire

    I hear ya.

    The last time I tried going to the police, I was informed that since no property damage occurred they weren’t going to do anything. Several questions later I found out that it boiled down to: the only way they would consider doing anything (this is city AND county enforcement) is if I was injured or my bike was damaged. Then I actually got hit…they still didn’t do anything.

    Come on, Buncombe and Asheville. Get it together.

  2. cwaster

    No surprise. I’ve been hit twice and I basically quit riding, as they did nothing.

  3. Stephen Lange

    I was hit, made a report, had an officer respond and he was even kind enough to put my bike in the back of his car to give me a ride home.These guys can not be everywhere. What we need is a civilian bicycle force that is responsible, law-abiding and willing to call a number if they see something fishy going on.Bad cab drivers, bus drivers, wanksters, tourists and of course, the driving-while-impaired-cellphoney all need an occasional reminder that while they are driving through our neighborhoods, SOMEONE is watching.Barack Obama has a plan for something like this…stay tuned.

  4. Cheshire

    That’s not going to do anything if the people on the other end of the line don’t protect us. Calling a number is fine and dandy, but if they’re not willing to go after the offenders, it’s a dead-end.

    Nine’ll get you ten the person that hit you had nothing happen to them. Watch all you like…nothing’s going to change until crap drivers start facing penalties. Until then, they’ll just keep running bicycles down while you watch.

  5. gary

    Maybe the drivers have had enough with the cyclist that do not follow rules….hand signal for turns and stops, not riding on the right side or even left side of cars stopped at red lights. Running the lights, not to mention that cyclist have to stop at cross walk for walkers. I have even seen cyclist, though by law are not allowed, riding across the Smokey Park Bridge weaving in and out of slowed traffic.

  6. tatuaje

    Maybe the drivers have had enough with the cyclist that do not follow rules….hand signal for turns and stops, not riding on the right side or even left side of cars stopped at red lights. Running the lights, not to mention that cyclist have to stop at cross walk for walkers. I have even seen cyclist, though by law are not allowed, riding across the Smokey Park Bridge weaving in and out of slowed traffic.

    So that gives reason to potentially KILL someone? Get a grip….

  7. gary

    To tatuaje, No it does not give the right to anyone to potentially KILL someone. Unless it is a case of self defense. I do not condone killing anyone.
    But when bikes (bikers) start riding in the blind spots of cars, we may not see them when we turn right, or if the bike runs a red light, cars do not always stop that quick.
    Just as a bike rider would like the car drivers to obey the law, I feel the bike riders need to read the manual and follow the laws also.

  8. Cheshire

    Gary: many of us do. Just so ya know. :)
    (Still didn’t stop someone from putting me in the hospital in a hit-and-run, though….)

  9. Clocky

    Gary you mention that cyclists are supposed to stop in crosswalks for walkers. That’s true. Here’s what you don’t say.

    Drivers are also supposed to stop at crosswalks. Let me tell you I’ve seen thousands more vehicle drivers disobey this law than I have cyclists.

    I also see this every day: drivers pass cyclists on two-lane roads without crossing the yellow line. Wrong.

    I feel it’s everybody’s duty to obey the law.

  10. Tim

    I agree that it is everybody’s duty to follow the law… However, cyclists are often the first to complain about the way drivers treat them, but the last to give the mutual respect to both drivers and walkers. They fly through red lights, go freely from sidewalk to road depending on where they have the better chance to get through, and expect drivers or walkers to give them the go-ahead to do whatever they want.
    Maybe you don’t do this, but if that’s the case, I have never seen you on the road. I have seen far too many instances of disrespectful bikers, and they seem to make up the majority in my experiences.

  11. Cheshire

    I haven’t been on the roads in a couple years, Tim. Two years ago, while following all the rules of the road and lit up like a christmas tree, a car pulled a hit-and-run at about 60 mph and shattered part of my spine, among other injuries.

    Yes, bicycles should follow the rules of the road, and I’ll continue telling other cyclists that. However, almost every other cyclist I’ve talked to that doesn’t follow the rules say what I apparently am an example of: “following the rules of the road will get you nothing but dead.”

    You’ll be hard-pressed to get those cyclists to change their ways until the cars start driving saner. Sad truth.

  12. Tim

    I’m sorry to hear that Cheshire.
    I do not drive. I walk everywhere unless I’m riding with a friend. I agree that drivers need to be more respectful as well, sorry if my post seemed a little harsh. I had just happened to be reading this article moments after being run off the sidewalk by someone on a bike.
    I just believe that “sharing the road” needs to be on all sides. Certainly drivers need to be more concious of it because the danger I am under from a bicyclist hitting me or running me off the sidewalk is not as bad as a what a car can do. But a lot of non-bikers I talk to carry a sort of dislike for bikers because of these frequent occasions of bikers not practicing what they preach.

  13. Cheshire

    Didn’t sound harsh to me at all, Tim. I’ve gotten on the cases of several cyclists I’ve witnessed blow through red lights, just as I stand up against drivers that declare “the road’s ONLY for cars!”

    It seems to me to be, instead of a meeting of minds, a butting of heads between cars and bikes. Sad state of affairs when everyone says, “you first”. Nothing gets done that way.

    As for the sidewalk problem…it ain’t exactly helping matters much when, for example, whatever knucklehead that built the College Street bicycle lane DIRECTED IT ONTO THE SIDEWALK at the traffic circle. I have yet to see a car be hindered by a cyclist taking the lane in a roundabout. That bike lane is nothing but a joke: it’s on the books as illegal to bike on the sidewalk, yet that’s where they send them. Umm…huh? Then there’s the fact that the bike lane follows parallel parking. That’s asking to get “doored”, which then puts the biker under whatever car is coming up behind them. So bikers go on the sidewalk, (and rarely slow down/move over) causing major problems for those who walk there.

    It’s all a mess.

  14. Tim

    Yeah, I can appreciate that.
    Having better road conditions for everyone involved would definitely help the matters.

  15. dave

    I will ride wherever its safe, sidewalk or street. I’m not interested in ‘following the law’ when it obviously endangers my life.
    As for “running red lights”, there are more than plenty of examples out there of cars that roll through stop signs, etc. To try and make it sound as if bicyclists are the problem is nonsense, most likely spoken by a person who has never actually ridden in traffic. The problem is stupid people, on all sides.

  16. Clocky

    Dave, I agree with you in part.

    That reminds me of the story of a man who waited until it was safe to cross the street. He watched the traffic, then waited for all the cars to clear the area. Then he walked across the street. Then a policeman approached him and asked him why he didn’t obey the crosswalk signal.

    He said “I was making sure I didn’t get hit by a car. I never heard of anybody getting run over by a crosswalk signal.”

  17. Tim

    Dave:
    Bicyclists are not the problem, but they ARE just as much of a problem. It’s not fair to other people for you to put them and yourself in danger by not following the laws. It’s just as illegal for cars to blow through crosswalks and roll through stops, or turn right on red when people are crossing the street and have the right of way.
    It definitely is something that I think will be addressed more and more as we reach an environmental consciousness in our society and respect alternate forms of transportation more, but for now it does take respect on all sides of the issue.
    But let’s face it, me and my fellow walkers get shafted by all involved :( haha

  18. dave

    Tim-
    I have lived in major cities like SF and Portland where it is perfectly reasonable to follow traffic laws and ride on the street. Here in asheville, the infrastructure in vastly different. There are very few places to ride safely, and the road is filled with A LOT of people who have no respect for bikers, so I will continue to ride where I feel it safe.
    Personally, I think the laws need to be changed so that bicycles are not considered cars in the eyes of the law. And until drivers can realize that bikes DO have a place on the road, I have NO interest in risking my body to serve some kind of idiotic principle.
    I have never been reprimanded by a cop in this town for riding my bike on the sidewalk, probably because they recognize it is common sense in most instances. Besides, there are usually virtually no pedestrians walking on them anyway. Everybody drives.

  19. Clocky

    I am a regular pedestrian in West Asheville and downtown. Recently, I was walking or running on the sidewalk by Brevard Road, near Haywood Road. It was almost dark. I am fairly easy to see in the daylight- 6’2″, but like I said, it was almost dark. A guy on a bicycle zoomed past me, nearly hitting me. The guy was riding on the sidewalk.

    I guess he was choosing to ride on the sidewalk rather than in the streets, for reasons of safety.

    Not my safety, obviously, but HIS safety.

    The notion that
    “everybody drives” is factually incorrect, and even as an exaggeration it has no place in this discussion.

    Bikers, stay off of my sidewalk.

  20. dave

    Dear Clocky–I promise you, if I am riding on the sidewalk, I give full right-of-way to any pedestrians who *might* be out there. Please dont lump one idiot in with all Bikers. That is silly. I’ve been clipped by a car on Patton, while I was walking on the sidewalk. I could hardly blame all drivers for that. But good luck making that molehill look like a mountain, oh oppressed pedestrian.

    And yes, “Everybody Drives” is certainly an exaggeration . On some days, I see two or three pedestrians on the part of Haywood where I ride my bike on the sidewalk. And I see maybe 1000 cars. So your right, “everybody” is certainly an exaggeration. How about 90% of the commuting public?

    Are you telling me you never drive or ride in a car? You only walk everywhere? Kudos to you, for that, if it’s true.

  21. travelah

    I am a regular pedestrian in West Asheville and downtown. Recently, I was walking or running on the sidewalk by Brevard Road, near Haywood Road. It was almost dark. I am fairly easy to see in the daylight- 6’2”, but like I said, it was almost dark. A guy on a bicycle zoomed past me, nearly hitting me. The guy was riding on the sidewalk.

    That almost makes a guy wanna catch a spoke.

  22. dave

    “That almost makes a guy wanna catch a spoke.”

    You’d have to step out of your gold-plated Hummer limo, first, and walk with the common rif-raf.

  23. travelah

    I’ve never driven a Hummer. They do not seem to me to be a desirable vehicle.

  24. Buck

    I’ve been riding a bike in Asheville for years, it has gotten easier but it’s still dangerous. Most drivers are sealed in their little cocoons conversing with passengers, listening to radio, arguing on the phone, even watching TV, adjusting the comfort controls, lost in thought. They are almost totally unaware of anything going on around them until something out of the ordinary happens. They tend to forget the car is not a home it’s a means of transportation weighing several tons and traveling at 30-50mph. It’s a heavy piece of equipment capable of killing that’s why a licenses is required to drive one.
    A bicyclist is not moving as fast as a car, not as likely to be distracted, and even if he hits something isn’t very likely to kill anyone. Bicycling is a great means of transportation but Americans have been taught to think of bikes as toys and that attitude is reflected by law enforcement. The best thing Asheville could do is require each police officer to do bike patrol duty a few weeks a year then maybe they’d have a better understanding of the problems bicyclists face. I can’t see any disadvantage to this idea, matter of fact, it might help with some of the other problems in our community as well.

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