Bicyclists DO have rights...and responsibilities - Ahwatukee Foothills News: Opinion

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Bicyclists DO have rights...and responsibilities

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Bob Beane is an economics graduate of the College of Wooster and an MBA accounting graduate of Miami University in Oxford, Ohio. He is also a bicycling advocate and has been a resident of Ahwatukee since 1992.

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Posted: Tuesday, July 10, 2012 3:49 pm

A recent letter by Michael McLaughlin could be described as “My Mind is Made up, Don’t Confuse me with Facts.” In response, let me just say that: (1) Most adult bicyclists also drive so, yes, most of us have auto, homeowners/renters (liability) and, if working or retired, medical insurance.

Most children are covered under their parent’s insurance. What does any of that have to do with rights to be treated with consideration and in accordance with AZ law? (2) There are neither license requirements nor license plate requirements for riding a bike in Arizona. Straw argument.

Public policy requires licenses and testing for driving a motor vehicle, probably because the ability to injure and kill is much greater in a 3,000+ pound vehicle than on a 20+ pound bike. I cannot recall the last time a bicyclist killed a motorist, another bicyclist or pedestrian while riding in Arizona. The statistics on deaths caused by motor vehicle drivers each year are publicly available.

There are many courses, instructors and educational materials readily available for bicyclists to learn to bicycle safely. Just because your governmental agency or community doesn’t fund bicycling education doesn’t diminish a bicyclist’s legal rights. FYI, my recreational club welcomes new cyclists weekly, and constantly educates visitors and new riders in safe cycling at no cost to them or the public.

Please note that I have never defended bad bicyclist behavior, and I support enforcement of Arizona law.

McLaughlin should bear in mind that sharing the road is not a legal “option,” it is a legal requirement. Good luck telling a law enforcement officer or judge that cyclists “Have no rights whatsoever.” Before he locks in his position, he should probably read Arizona Revised Statutes, Section 28, to see how wrong he is. To save him some time, I simply offer the below excerpt from the current Arizona Drivers Manual (readily accessible via the Internet) that discusses, in summary, rights and responsibilities of bicyclists … and motorists around bicyclists.

Bicyclists must obey the same traffic laws as drivers of vehicles, and they have the right-of-way under the same conditions as motorists.

Motorists should be alert for bicyclists along the roadway because cyclists are often difficult to see. Extra caution is necessary. Motorists are required to allow a minimum safe distance of 3 feet when passing a bicycle traveling in the same direction.

At night, you should dim your headlights for bicyclists.

Drivers should be prepared for a bicyclist swerving. Although bicyclists must ride with the flow of traffic and stay near the right side of the road, they can legally move left for several reasons, such as:

• Turning left.

• Avoiding hazards.

• Passing pedestrians or vehicles.

• If the lane in which the person is operating a bicycle is too narrow for a bicycle and motor vehicle to travel safely side-by-side.

Important rules for bicyclists:

• Do not carry more persons than the design of the bicycle permits.

• Do not ride more than two side-by-side.

• Ride as near to the right side of the road as possible.

• Use proper hand signals.

• Do not bicycle under the influence of drugs or alcohol — it is illegal.

• When riding at night, have a white head lamp visible from 500 feet, and a rear reflector.

Bicyclists and motorists are individuals. Some follow the law and share the road, and some don’t.

Speaking of pet peeves, mine is people like McLaughlin lumping all “bicyclists” or “motorists” into one category and not addressing individual behavior. I both ride and drive, and I see numerous violations of laws in both groups.

As a safe bicycling advocate and educational proponent I try to address all parties so that more safe co-existence is possible. Taking a factual approach to the law, safe cycling and safe driving, in my opinion, is the best course to creating a better environment for all people … some of whom like to (or need to) ride, and many who don’t.

• Ahwatukee Foothills resident Bob Beane is president of the Coalition of Arizona Bicyclists.

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