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Tuesday, September 28, 2004

Local Bicycle Safety Column Misleads 

Well, it's been almost 4 months since I've posted due to my blogging (not riding) hiatus. I have been tempted (to at least update) on numerous occasions, but was well enough involved with so much else that I kept putting it off for another time. And although I am still not prepared to resume blogging full-time, I felt the urge to update due to a bicycle safety column in my town (New Cumberland) newsletter that I had a few qualms with. I won't reprint the full column, you'll get the idea when reading the letter I wrote to the Olde Towne Association as follows:

""NCOT Messenger
PO Box 531
New Cumberland, PA

September 29, 2004

I have enjoyed reading the Olde Towne Messenger since my arrival in New Cumberland almost two years ago. But in the most recent September issue, something caught my eye that is of great personal interest and concern, the “Bicycle Safety” column on page 3.

My interest in bicycle safety stems from my regular bicycle commuting to work at an environmental non-profit on 3rd Street in Harrisburg. I have even taken to detailing many of my adventures and experiences online at www.bicyclecommutingnow.blogspot.com, an online journal that receives regular traffic from both bicyclists and non-bicyclists in the Harrisburg region and beyond.

My concern with the column in the Messenger stems from my riding experience and knowledge of Pennsylvania bicycling laws (http://www.dot.state.pa.us/bike/web/bikelaws.htm ), as well as safe and effective riding techniques and skills. Many of which this column unfortunately dispels as incorrect DOs or DON’Ts.

“Keep to the Right” – Although state law requires bicycles to stay to the right when traveling, it only does so when it is practically safe to do so, not at all costs and times. For example, a bicyclist riding in the roadway should be at least 3 feet away from any parked cars on the right hand side to prevent “dooring” accidents. This effectively puts the bicyclist in the middle of the road lane, thus taking the “full lane” which they have the right to, and preventing cars from trying to squeeze by them in tight situations.

“Always let cars and people go first” – This is incorrect when riding in traffic. Bicycles are considered traffic and should interact with cars as such, thus providing predictable behavior that car drivers would expect, such as taking your turn at an intersection for example, not always letting cars go first.

“Don’t ride at night” – Riding at night can be perfectly safe for the rider and for other traffic as long as certain conditions are met. Bikes should by law have a front white light visible to 500 feet, and reflectors facing the rear and each side. It is also a good idea to have a flashing light on the rear of the bicycle to increase visibility to car traffic. Car drivers should understand and be prepared for bicycles operated on roadways at night as well as day.

“Never go between two cars!” – Once again, this is an example of the belief that bikes do not belong on roadways. In reality, bicycles are vehicles with every right to the road as cars, thus making it perfectly fine to “go” between two cars.

As you know, there are numerous bicycle riders who travel New Cumberland roads daily either commuting, or pleasure riding. We struggle daily with educating car drivers as to our rights and their responsibilities on the road when interacting with bicyclists. In the future, I would ask that you do a little more research when presenting information on any topic that effects the behavior and perception of any particular group towards a specific activity such as bicycle riding. I would be more than happy to assist you in obtaining the necessary information pertaining to bicycle riding that the Olde Town Association may be lacking.

Thank you for your time and attention,

New Cumberland, PA""

We'll see if I get any response in comparison to the letter I wrote to the Borough about the malfunctioning traffic light in town quite a while back, that I still haven't heard anything about. There is probably lots more to tell, but like I said, I'm not back in this game yet. I will tell that there were bicycle rentals available on City Island this summer, that I seem to be noticing many more commuters out and about (sure to change now that summer is over), and that I am about to try changing my brake and derailleur cables for the first time ever. Should be interesting eh? I was off the bike for a few weeks when I had my tonsils out too. Don't let anyone tell you it's just a minor thing, especially when you are over childhood age. I couldn't speak or eat for a week straight, period. And then took more time to recover my strength and such. For new readers, be sure to read the next post down for the full details about my hiatus.

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