Analysis: Come race day or highway, a case for generosity on wheels

Dallas Hyland is a St. George News columnist, the opinions stated herein are his own and not those of St. George News.

OPINION – The St. George Ironman is around the bend here in Dixie and with it will come the inevitable onslaught of those pesky cyclists doing what seems in this town to be the most annoying thing the average daily driver has to face: riding on “their” roads.

If you are among those who find this activity an annoyance or perhaps even an interference, may I be so bold as to say get over it?

Cyclists have as much right to the road as those who operate motorized vehicles and are subject to most of the same laws as drivers.

But here in St. George it seems they are also at times the target for some aggression played out by people behind the wheel in the form of what could aptly be called vehicular harassment.

I frequently ride from my home in Dammeron Valley into town and until I reach the Snow Canyon entrance, I have to brave the road without a bike lane. To be frank, it can be a scary and life-threatening experience at times because of people in cars who pass me in close proximity.

Now to be fair, it is neither the motorist nor the cyclist who is necessarily at fault in this scenario as they both have the right to be there and to arrive at their destination safely. Not unimpeded mind you –  but safely and without unreasonable threat of harm.

I choose to ride on the road. Therefore I subject myself to the inherent dangers but may I just say to the drivers out there that I encounter, those that give me 2 inches of space as they pass, you could kill me?

In fact, speaking for just myself here, I would prefer you just hit and kill me instantly if I upset you so much because what I mostly fear is not death but being nudged at 40 mph into the volcanic debris field along the side of the highway near Snow Canyon.

OK, all kidding aside this is a serious issue.

As a member of both the cycling community and the driving community, I see this situation as one we could overcome.

Drivers, remember that pesky cyclist in the funny riding britches has a wife and three kids at home to get to. It will not kill you to move over a little if it’s possible to do so without engaging oncoming traffic. Motorists are required by law to do this for emergency personnel, why not citizens on the side of the road as well as cyclists or any other measure of pedestrian?

Or, if that is not an immediate possibility, how about slowing down for the time it takes to make a safe pass without near-grazing the poor chap on the bike?

Cyclists, do your part too. Instead of insisting so much on your right to the road and riding side by side on roadways with limited space, drop to a single file formation until conditions allow otherwise.

City and county officials, get with the program and support the communities you encourage with events like the Ironman and put in some bike lanes. Maybe the next time a nifty $300,000 used and dilapidated merry-go-round seems like a good idea, consider spending the money on making this a more pedestrian friendly community with things like bike lanes. You cannot seriously present yourself as an up-and-coming progressive city and not have bike lanes on your main roads.

Lastly, to all the aggressive motorists and cyclists alike, with respect to your frustrations, grow up. Using a car to take out your frustrations in some parts of the country is considered a terroristic threat; besides that, it is just plain childish.

As a community, we can do this.

See you out there.

 

email: dhyland@stgnews.com

twitter: @dallashyland

Copyright 2012 St. George News.

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Posted in Columnists, Life, Opinion / Columns / ShowsTagged

20 Comments

  • Joe Motorist April 24, 2012 at 1:43 pm

    RE generosity on wheels.
    So, the cyclist has the same right to the road as the motorist? I beg a differing opinion.

    First of all it is not a “right” the use of the city or state thoroughfares. It may be a desire to use the roads but no one not even the motorists can claim usage as an inalienable right derived from god. If really thought through use of the city/state roads and highways is a privilege granted to us by The State. ( A little Orwellian if you think about it.)

    If I want to use my car on the roads of Utah I have to have it registered with the State. Before I can do that I have to pay a property tax and have a State licensed entity perform an inspection of my vehicle (again at my expense ) and deem it ”worthy” for use on the road. As if this was not enough I must also insure my vehicle and anyone in the family who might use it to the State’s satisfaction. This entire process must be repeated yearly at peril of citation and/or loss of driving privileges.

    All of that effort is mute if I do not have a State issued operators (drivers) license. I must spend even more time and money to learn the “rules of the road” and then perform a satisfactory practical operating test (again with a State agency).

    This same practice is forced upon any other vehicle that I wish to operate within the confines of the city/state, motorcycles, ATV’s even boats. Every vehicle that is except bicycles.

    You do not have to obtain a bicycle endorsement on your driver’s license. You do not have to insure your bike. You pay no property tax nor are you required to register it with the state. I have never seen bike owners going in for a mandated annual safety inspection. You are not required to have brake lights, headlights, turn signals, horn or even to wear a helmet. Indeed you may say that bicycles do not even show up on the State’s radar.

    There is no age requirement for bicycles, no residency requirement or driving test. The only thing you need to ride a bike is the money to purchase one.

    If you want to start demanding your “equal right” to the roads, start playing by the same rules as the rest of us. Until the State starts demanding of you the same requirements as the rest of us motorists you may want to savor your freedom and have a little patience with the cars and their drivers…or as you put it – “get over it”.

    • just an observer April 24, 2012 at 2:10 pm

      Joe, do you mean to imply that because as a motorist you are required to obey traffic laws and ordinances and pay fees and expenses that your right to passage on the roads supersedes the life and safety of those who are not required to do so?

      Might you be one of those aggressive motorists the author is referring to?

      The article was a call to action that implored people to get along and share the road which, as you aptly pointed out, is a privilege for all to use.

  • A Longtime Cyclist April 24, 2012 at 2:43 pm

    To Joe Motorist:
    So, is it the fact that you don’t have to license a bike that gets you riled up, or is it sharing the road? Personally, I ride bikes, used to race ’em semi-pro, I ride motorcycles( endorsement, insurance req., helmet optional in Utah), I drive cars( License, insurance, seatbelt req.), and I have a boat( license and insurance req). How much more do i need to pay in taxes and license fees? So, are you prepared to take your child in and get them a bicycle license, and license and insure their bicycle?
    Let me help you out a little bit here with the concept of insurance. Insurance is there to protect you from loss and damage, and to protect others from loss or damage you may cause. Car= 1 1/2 ton weapon, capable of destroying much property, and killing a lot of people at once. Happens all the time, hence the requirement for insurance. Bicycle= 15-25 lbs, with a soft fleshy human aboard. Biggest danger is to the rider, not property, not the lives of other innocent people. Pretty easy to figure that one out, yes?
    Most of your statements are showing a definite hostility towards cyclists, so you might want to check the Utah laws regarding bicycles before you go too far down that road. For instance, a bicycle is required to ride as far to the right of the lane as is safe. That does not mean on the shoulder, where all the debris, broken glass and loose nuts and bolts from your car are. Just because the tires are only an inch wide does not mean the cyclist is that skinny. Yes, there are some really bad cyclists out there, riding three abreast (illegal), not obeying traffic signs and signals (making all cyclists look bad), etc. etc., but these renegades are the exception, not the rule, and that does not give you free rein to harass legal, law abiding riders, or any of the other kind, for that matter.
    Lighten up, share the road with a cyclist, and extend a little courtesy and kindness, please. Oh, and by the way, many cyclists also have concealed carry permits, so be nice out there.

  • Joanne Cyclist April 24, 2012 at 2:44 pm

    The right comes from the law. http://www.bikeutah.org/UtahCyclingLaws
    And yes it would do us all a lot of good to understand these laws while we are taking drivers ed. Cyclist and pedestrian ethics are a very important component of sharing the road. So lets all play nice because if you accidently come too close while trying to “scare me” -while I am riding my 20lb bike just trying to get some exercise and stay fit, or community to my job by bike to save gas for my family to eat – with your 2000 lb steel care you will feel really bad if you kill a person just for riding their bike.

  • Kris April 24, 2012 at 3:03 pm

    You have a lot of great points here. I, too, am a resident of Dammeron Valley and have passed many cyclist on my ventures to town. However, I have witnessed a cyclist wreck on the highway. Good thing I was traveling in the opposite direction, or I would have ran that poor man over. I think a lot of people’s frustrations with cyclists come from fear, as mine do. Since I witness this man eat pavement, I have developed a fear of a cyclist wrecking in front of me, especially when they are riding 3-4 in row (not in line). Coming around blind corners is a hazard as well, as you don’t know what is waiting around the bend. You mention slowing down for cyclists, but it doesn’t matter if you’re going 25 mph or 65 mph, an impact is going to hurt or be fatal either way. That brings me to Joe’s point about vehicles having to obey a strict set of rules set forth by the state, including insurance. I believe that if a cyclist is going to be riding on the road (mainly highways), they should also have to pay insurance to cover any accidents they may cause. It can’t always be the drivers fault! Just imagine if I had been driving in the opposite direction when that cyclist wrecked on his bike… I could have hurt him really bad, or possibly have killed him, not to mention the emotional impact it would have had on me. I understand that there are not trails north of Snow Canyon, but I don’t understand why people don’t use them once they reach that point. I mean, a lot of money has gone into creating and maintaining these trails and I never see anyone using them! I think if the State believes that it is a cyclist’s right to use the highways, they should create a larger bike lane (because cyclist often ride to left of them anyway). Anyhow, I completely agree that we need to find a common ground that safe and just for everyone.

  • Char April 24, 2012 at 3:21 pm

    My experience with bicycles are not good. If you have a kid riding, they like to dart in and out of the roadway in front of you. BUT I consider this youth and ignorance and parents not teaching them. If it is an adult, they tend to ride to the side unless there are a few together and instead of following the law of single file, they drift into the lane so they can talk to each other. If there is a race, the bicyclists think they own the road and will ride where they dang well please, never to the side of the road like they are supposed to do.

    When the bicyclists take note of the cars and ride like they are supposed to, then I will stop thinking ill of them. If you have a car behind you and you are doing 25 mph and the speed limit is 65 (like on hwy 9), please give the car room to pass safely, not travel in the middle of the lane……

  • Joe Motorist April 24, 2012 at 7:23 pm

    @Longtime Cyclist . Bad form mentioning concealed carry in that way. Bad form.

    • Longtime Ciclist April 25, 2012 at 2:00 pm

      @ Joe Motorist, Just sayin’, it is a good idea to be courteous, you never know when aggressive behavior will be perceived as a threat to life, limb and property. Having been attacked by vehicles, and the people driving them in the past, there comes a point. I don’t know if you’ve ever been run over, run off the road into the ditch, or been smacked by a beer bottle thrown at your back by a vehicle traveling at 50 plus MPH, but it is not going to happen to me again, I promise I will not be a victim.

  • Matty Jacobson April 25, 2012 at 1:42 am

    I would just like to point out that I ran the Red Mountain Ultramarathon Saturday, and I was running into both oncoming traffic, as well as oncoming cyclists. Everyone was gracious. When I could, I ran off the road to allow traffic the needed space to travel safely without having to veer into the other lane and into oncoming traffic themselves. I noticed cyclists did the same, and I also noticed motorists slowed down when they couldn’t change lanes, and made the complete lane change whenever they needed to pass a cyclist or myself. I think there was only one car who seemed oblivious to the fact there were bikes and runners all over the place. I think we should all be courteous toward each other. I don’t think any one of us has more right than the other to be on the roads. Share, people. Isn’t that what Sesame Street taught us all those years ago?

  • Biker guy April 25, 2012 at 6:59 am

    Do other cities have this same problem with the arrogance of motorists against cyclists and runners? Or is this attitude just another unique trait of the Washington County folks?

    I have biked around this county for many years and have encountered many people with evil intent and angry words while putting in my 3 hr workout. Are they really that offended that I’m riding just to the right of the white shoulder line on “their road” or is it something within themselves that is making them angry?

    I have 3 vehicles in my driveway that I pay taxes for and pay other taxes for roads when I fuel them up so I don’t get the “you’re not paying to share the road garbage”

    As for a special license to ride the roads and bicycle insurance. Ha! good luck trying to make that law and enforce it across the board. Would that be just for the spandex crew or would that include kids who bike to school? Yeh, really good idea.

    I have a really good idea for a Psychology Major. Gather volunteers who can’t stand runners and cyclists on the roads and figure out what they all have in common mentally. Are they envious of fit people? Do they envy people who can bike 80 miles or run 20 miles and then go about their normal day? (day after day) There has to be some reason that they are missing the compassion gene and can’t just safely go around people and go about their day without pitching a fit and carrying on.

  • Shawn April 25, 2012 at 2:58 pm

    About the only time Bikers piss me off is when the Idiots are riding in the road when just feet away is a bike path. You see it all the time on Snow Canyon Parkway. Also when there is like 5 feet of shoulder and they chose to ride right on the white line. Those Idiots deserve to be hit for being that stupid. Just as much as you ask for common sense and respect from people in cars you should try doing the same.

    • Another Cyclist April 27, 2012 at 11:13 am

      Kudos to Longtime Cyclist for summing it up.

      Shawn, you should also be aware that cars can and do park inside the 5 foot shoulder making it necessary to ride past them just inside or on the white line.

      I’ve rode the Snow Canyon Pkwy trail and it is way too scary at intersections where the trail crosses the road, because you know motorists might not see you. But you can be pretty sure motorists will stop at the Pkwy intersections, so it is easy to see why cyclists take to the road instead.

      I used to wonder the same thing about cyclists until I became one. You can learn a lot by riding a mile or two in their shoes.

      • Shawn April 27, 2012 at 2:00 pm

        I have rode and do ride. I guess im not busy with my head up my butt and look out for cars. I don’t seem to have a problem riding down the trail on Snow Canyon. All it takes is some common sense but more and more i see Common sense isn’t so common anymore. Why take responsibility for your own actions when you can blame someone else.

        • Another Cyclist April 27, 2012 at 7:31 pm

          Who said cyclists aren’t looking for cars? A cyclist looking out for motorists doesn’t guarantee the motorist will see the cyclist or pay attention either.

  • ron April 26, 2012 at 7:04 am

    So, Shawn, you’re saying people deserve to die for being stupid? And you’re going to decide who is stupid and who is not? Wow!

  • Longtime Cyclist April 26, 2012 at 9:43 am

    Shawn, there is a very good reason cyclists don’t ride on the so-called “bike path”. It’s usually very clogged up with people walking 4 abreast, strolling their dogs, walking their baby strollers, etc. 9 times out of 10, if you call out a gentle warning, they will jump right in front of you. If you don’t warn them, they will cuss and swear at you for riding on THEIR path. The second reason that cyclists don’t like the paths are intersections and street crossings. People in cars just don’t see you, and will turn right into you, or pull into the crossing and block the path. Both of these scenarios result in injured cyclists, broken and bent bicycles ( make no mistake, most of these are not Walmart bikes, but custom bikes costing $3000.00 and up), ambulance rides, and dented car fenders.
    As to riding on the far side of the white line, as I mentioned previously, that’s where all the debris (broken glass, nails, drywall screw, lumber, rocks, etc) ends up. Not a problem for a car tire, which is 3/4 to 1″ thick, with steel belts, but certainly an issue for bicycle tire. Riding on the clean side of the line, which is absolutely legal, and the right of the cyclist= no flats, and a pleasant ride, The dirty side of the line= lots of flat tires, replacement tubes (at 6-15 dollars each), ruined tires (at 30-60 EACH) and a whole bunch of hassle changing them out.
    See, a little info and education helps you understand the why. Let’s all go out, enjoy our chosen form of transportation and recreation, be it bike, car, truck, or motorcycle, and start showing some courtesy and kindness to each other. Share the road with a cyclist, it’s ok, nobody will think less of you, and it will generate some good karma.

  • tiredwife April 27, 2012 at 6:34 pm

    Just a question for our cyclist friends. I travel State Route 9 daily, up and down the Laverkin Twist. Many times I will be coming down the hill and get around the first curve to see a group of cyclists. So as a cyclist how should a driver reacet in this situation. I’m already doing well below speed limit, but don’t want to ride my brakes on the hill. It’s one of those that if you ride your brakes, you won’t have any. Can’t ask the bikes to take the shoulder, as there isn’t one. Helpful suggestions would appriecated. Every time I come upon a bike I’m very nervous because I really don’t want to hit one, yet I don’t want to go off the cliff either.

    • just an observer April 27, 2012 at 7:28 pm

      What an apropos question that aptly represents the attitude our community should be taking as a whole. Instead of a stand off between motorists and cyclists, a dialogue with meaningful questions about real dilemmas.

      The answer may well be that it is time for Washington County to put in bike lanes as the author suggests.

      Thank you tired wife for taking a conversation digressing into confrontation and showing everyone how it is done.

    • Longtime Cyclist April 30, 2012 at 10:23 am

      Hi Tiredwife,
      In this situation, it’s best just to give the cyclists a little “beep-beep” on the horn to let them know you are there. At that point, they should form up to a single file line, allowing you to safely pass. If they cannot safely get in line, please be patient, it will only take a minute to get to a safe place in the road. As you don’t want to heat up your brakes, neither do cyclists. Best situation for keeping your brakes from overheating is to not “drag” them, trying to maintain a constant speed. Better to brake a little harder, get 5-10 mph under your target speed, then let off the brakes until you get a little over the target speed, then brake harder again, repeat. On bicycle brakes, they work by the little rubber pad clamping on the rim. This generates a LOT of heat, and will melt the brake pads (wee little rubber thingies), or heat the rim up so hot it pops the inner tube, resulting in a horrible crash. As in most things, and little patience and kindness go a long way. Thanks for asking.

  • BigBill April 28, 2012 at 10:19 am

    If all cyclists were Mormon Missionaries, would you give them ample respect and room on the road? If they have white shirts and ties, then they get respect. If they don’t they get honked at and almost hit. The rest of the world has many more bike riders than the US. We are blessed that we can drive most places, because of economic status. Please treat others like you would like to be treated( Golden Rule). This applies on the road as well. Not just in church.

    Served a Mormon Mission in South Africa ( 1997-1999)

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