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Rules of the Road: Bicycles vs. Cars


Many people have strong opinions about how bicycles and cars should share the road. We had a lot of responses to our “Help Us Tell the Story” query on WCPN.org.

Dr. William Bligh-Glover of Cleveland says he’s seen the results of bicycle accidents first-hand and knows how vulnerable bicyclists are.
“As a coroner, I've done the autopsies on bicyclists. Really, a bicyclist may be considered to be a fast-moving, unprotected pedestrian. Cars are large, heavy, and less maneuverable. Bikes can be riding, obeying all the rules of the road, and hit a pothole (a considerable problem in Cleveland) fall, and get run over by a semi. The semi will win. Trust me on this one. It is made worse when bicyclists don't obey the traffic rules, weave in and out, and worst of all, have small children on or behind the bikes. Great. That way two people can die in one accident.”

Jason Williams of Cleveland Heights says he sees many bicyclists breaking rules and riding recklessly:
“Most bicyclists here in Cleveland Heights don't seem to follow the same rules as the motorists. I often see bicyclists ride through red lights, weave in & out of stopped or staggered traffic, & rarely use hand-signals. I appreciate the bicyclists that obey these rules (though they seem in the minority). I support a previous caller's notion of bicycle classes for kids--especially for kids. Children rarely follow the rules. “

Fraser of Euclid has had some close calls as a bike rider:
“Three years ago I rode around Lake Erie (on a bicycle) with two friends. We got shouted at in Vermillion, telling us to get on the sidewalk by a carful of high school kids. That was the only incident on the whole trip. One week after returning I got hit by a pickup truck mirror in Willoughby. A nearby police officer pulled the truck over and the driver claimed he never he even saw me. That is pretty scary...”

Jerry Golinski of Berea isn’t sure if anyone really knows the rules of the road:
“I don't think I fully understand them. I don't know if anyone does. I think most motorists don't think bicycles belong on the road. They REALLY don't know that bikes are legal on the road. In the Cleveland Metroparks, we have gotten hollered at hundreds of times that we should be on the "bike trail". I have been told by police officers that it is OK for me to ride my bike through a stop sign without stopping or through a red light. (As long as it is clear) He said officer discretion decides if a cyclist should be cited for these actions. Is this true, or are cyclists really supposed to follow "the same rules as motorists"?”

Catherine Huth is dying for more and better bike lanes:
“YES YES YES!!!!!! PLEASE HELP WITH THIS!!!! According to Columbus, there is PLENTY of grant money for the asking to make bike paths, but a regular old person can not write a grant request - it must be a politician. I have been trying DESPERATELY to contact the city councilman in charge of the north end of Cleveland Hopkins Airport to request that a grant be written and submitted BY FEBRUARY to put a bike path and/or sidewalk in front of the airport, but my emails and phone calls have fallen on deaf ears. All we need is a grant request, and it sounds as though we will get the money. Can you help???????????? Thanks for asking!!!”

Cleveland’s David J. Schneider says Northeast Ohio bike-riders and drivers can look abroad for inspiration:
"Go to Amsterdam, Holland and you will see how cyclists, autos and pedestrians can get along in an efficient and friendly manner. As fuel costs increase our reliance on the family auto for universal transport must and will change. We must have an effective system of moving people which includes buses, trains, bikes, and autos."

John Ludway of Cleveland Heights says many drivers are simply not aware of their cars’ size:
“Drivers need to recognize how wide their vehicles are! There's plenty of room on the road if drivers simple hug the left side of their lane when passing. Drivers should not honk, but drive in an intelligent fashion. Bicyclist need to follow the rules of the road. They should be ticketed when they do not.”

David Effron of Beachwood says drivers should see bicylcists as human beings, not just nuisances on the road:
"Realize that the person riding the bike is someones mom, dad, brother, sister, son, daughter. It wont make an impact on you personally until someone you know has been killed or died on a bike, persoanally I have known several including Miles, Cal and Charles Barr from the cleveland orchestra who have died."

Wooster’s Amy B. says in Wayne County, bikes, cars and buggies have to share the roads.
Here in Wayne County, and more specifically, Wooster, I ride a VERY visible bike with purple paisley saddlebags through out the community to save gas when running my errands. Vehicles here are, by and large, very courteous, but only because they do not know the rules that bicyclists adhere to daily. It's actually very sad, as we also have Amish buggies that cars have to deal with daily, as well. The drivers who do not take into consideration the safety of others on the road are the same drivers that will pass buggies on a hill where they cannot see the other direction and are creating potentially deadly situations. In terms of safety, I wear a helmet and make conscious decisions to take roads that are less-travelled, or have more than one lane in one direction, so that it is easier for cars to pass me. I use my hand signals, and do NOT ride on the sidewalks, as they are called side-"walks" for a reason. Finally, I would just ask for the same respect any one of us wishes from the other on a daily basis in ANY situation, and to remind drivers that passing us quickly or having to wait for us for a couple seconds is not going to make THAT great a difference in the daily commute!

Michael Lehto of Cleveland Heights has a simple yet familiar message regarding bike lanes:
“Build it and they will come!!!”

Laura Gooch, of Cleveland Heights, offered safety tips:
“Cyclists: Never trust anyone in a vehicle that weighs 15 times more than you do. Ride defensively. Be courteous to drivers. Drivers: The bikes have as much right to the road as you do. Many of them are going to work or school, just as you are. Keep in mind that your momentary impatience may put the cyclist's life at risk. Take a deep breath and take the 10 seconds that are needed to keep your fellow commuter safe. Keep in mind that while the laws for you and the bike are the same in most cases common sense will have the cyclist bending the rules in some situations.”

Danielle, of Cleveland, says that as a driver, she’s dismayed by the lack of concern many cyclists seem to have for their own safety.
”At night, in my neighborhood, it is not uncommon suddenly to come upon a helmet-less cyclist clad in black from head to toe, who's pedaling a reflective device-less bike straight for your windshield. From the driver's perspective, even at 25 mph, this is a mind-jarring experience.”

Peter E. Toomey, of Rocky River, recommends taking courses offered at national and local bike clubs. He also says bicyclists need to stand up for themselves.
When it's not safe for a car to pass, take the entire lane. You'll get yelled at, but that's better than being pushed off the road when the driver realizes that the left half of his vehicle is over the double yellow and a truck is coming at them Drivers - Realize that cyclists have the same rights and responsibilities as motor vehicles - share the road.

But Peggy Sands, of Rocky River, laments that no matter what she does, drivers just don’t see to see her.
“Inattention is the greatest danger. Drivers simply don't see us even when properly lit up and brightly dressed. I'd say there are too many distractions for drivers such as GPS machines, phones, satellite radio screens, etc.”

Both cyclists and drivers need to make an effort to coexist, says Ellen Alaimo, of Lakewood.
Cyclists should follow the road rules and be visible to drivers. Large groups of cyclists should not hog the road. When a driver is behind a bicycle s/he needs to slow down until there is a safe opportunity to pass. Both cyclists and drivers need to pay attention to the road.

And Jennifer Talley, of Cleveland, thinks cities need to provide more bike lanes on the roadways:
“I think in this time of energy shortage and emissions concerns it is crucial that we not only provide more space for bikes but that we encourage their use. It will ease traffic congestion, reduce emissions, the dependency on foreign oil, have an impact the obesity epidemic and our overburdened health care system.”

You can always share you’re thoughts. What story aren’t we telling? What would you like to hear about? Go to wcpn.org, look under "Help Us Tell the Story," and tell us! Chris Coburn, Ride for Miles
Brian Newbacher, Director of Public Affairs, AAA East Central
Dominic Liberatore, Board Member, Bike Walk Ohio
Marty Cader, Bicycle/Pedestrian Coordinator, Cleveland City Planning Commission