Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Bicyclist: Don’t Share The Road

bike-page1I have just re-entered the cycling fold after a hiatus of 25 years. Growing up in Ottawa, I used to ride everywhere.  Back in the day, Ottawa was already pretty bike-friendly and a bicycle was my only real transportation. Weather permitting, I would ride dozens of miles a day  – to school, work, to the homes of friends – I never thought about distance. I had no car, no license, and lived in a city with affordable and convenient public transportation.

I resisted the temptation to succumb to Canadian progressivism though, and I couldn’t wait to begin burning fossil fuels with abandon. Just before my 17th birthday I did just that, first on a ’79 Yamaha XS400, a motorcycle bought with my summer job money, and eventually with a hand-me-down Buick Skyhawk. I don’t remember what happened to my old bicycle.

After I returned to New York, I worked far too hard to think about riding a bicycle for fun. I got married and had kids, and in the years that followed, I owned a series of the kind of crappy, mass produced mountain bikes that all dads probably buy  – the kind designed to get you to the ice cream stand and back with the kids.  I never took riding seriously and never commuted on these bikes. They just weren’t fun. They were heavy, needlessly-complicated, and badly built.

That all ended about four years ago when I saw a really cool retro bike at Rick’s Bike Shop in Queensbury. It was a Beach Cruiser made by Giant and it had been sitting at Rick’s for two years without selling. It was cheap and it had coaster brakes, wide swooping handlebars, huge tires and a comfy seat. As if to seal the deal, it was a three-speed with AUTOMATIC gears! How cool is that? I immediately forked over the money and I proceeded to ride it more than a thousand miles that first year. To work. To ice cream. To Lake George. Everywhere. I just couldn’t believe it. Cycling was fun again! I was eight years old again with permission to ride to the next block, out of sight of my parents. I was free!

I still ride a bicycle primarily because it makes me feel free, but now an average ride is about 35 to 40 miles (I do go much further when I have time). I look forward to days off I can devote to my new calling. I’ve completed a few century rides (100 miles) and taken a few trips. This past season, I put about 2,500 miles on my Cannondale R1000 road bike and have already logged about 1,000 miles this year.  Several weeks ago I stepped it up again and got rid of my motorcycle to put a deposit down on an American made K. Bedford custom-made bicycle frame. I am seriously addicted to cycling. I can say, with all sincerity, that, while hardly an athlete, I am definitely a “cyclist”. I never saw this coming but I truly LOVE getting on two wheels and pedaling off on an adventure. Every time I do it.

Here comes the point. For all the miles I’ve put on bicycles in the past four years, I’ve been extremely lucky when it comes to vehicular traffic. Like all cyclists, I have had a few near scrapes and I have been yelled at by drivers who apparently sweat anger from their pores and seem awfully frustrated that they are asked to consider we lowly folk as they pilot their earth-bound spaceships on our shared asphalt.

For the most part, though, I have experienced caution and courtesy from most drivers in my area. I have been in only one crash and it was caused by unattended pedestrian children on a bike path and my own desperate desire to avoid them as they blocked said path entirely. I have occasionally felt the wind of vehicles as they pass by, sometimes mere inches away. I have had people who truly should not have licenses upset at me because they don’t understand who has a right of way. I will say, unequivocally, that my own experiences with traffic (compared with those of most other cyclists I know) have been uncharacteristically good.

Last week, a story came to my attention, though, that brings home just how horrific a car/person collision usually is in areas where we are asked to share the road.  Ashley Poissant, a 27-year-old was struck by a car last Monday evening as she and three friends ran along the shoulder of Perry Mills Road in Champlain. She died later that night.

It reminded me of another story, that of Richard Shapiro and his business partner Melinda Ellis, who were riding a tandem bicycle in Saranac Lake and had a near collision with the driver of a truck. Shapiro gave the truck’s driver, William Reed, the finger and Reed then blocked the couple’s path with his vehicle. The two men exchanged words, fists flew, and both men were issued summons for criminal harassment.  At the time Shapiro said Franklin County had declared “an open season on cyclists.”

I have heard other horror stories from friends and have read stories about people, like Ashley and Richard, whose experiences have been so much less savory than my own. People are regularly hurt and killed because we (cars and bikes) are not sharing the road very well. I have to believe that, for every example that makes the news, a handful of other incidents go unreported.

Heather Sackett, a two time Ironman finisher and an avid cyclist wrote an op-ed about this subject in the Lake Placid News several years ago. “No cyclist, runner or triathlete wants to be training on the same highways as vehicular traffic,” she wrote.  “In the Adirondacks, however, this cannot be avoided. There are no bike paths, running paths or even bike lanes like those found in cities and suburbs. This very fact is what makes our area attractive to athletes. One of the best things about training here is that you get to bike and run on roads with beautiful scenic vistas and rolling hills. Unfortunately, those same roads are utilized by vehicles, which makes it a dangerous situation. Please, be safe this summer and give each other some space.”

I agree strongly with her sentiments. We SHOULD be able to share the road with each other and the Adirondacks ARE an amazing place to ride. But, after some careful consideration about the realities involved (that many Adirondack roadways simply lack sufficient shoulder space to effectively have cars and bikes use them at the same time), I’m not so sure that beseeching us all to “share the road” is a practical solution to this very real (and potentially fatal) problem.

The idea that my relatively slow-moving 225 pounds of bike and rider could ever effectively “share” insufficient space with a 4,000 pound vehicle is probably folly from the get-go regardless of how careful or courteous either party may be. I don’t know how you are when driving a car. I know how I am. I’m in my shell. I’m in the Batmobile. I’m already feeling isolated and empowered and restricted all at the same time.

My point is that it’s not really about “us” versus “them” when it comes to cars and bikes. Most of us who cycle also drive cars. We’re all “them” if we’re honest about it. So, while a cyclist may well be able to put themselves in a driver’s shoes, it’s far less likely that a driver can or will put themselves in a cyclist’s shoes. I highly doubt that we are going to fix this problem with public safety campaigns, good intent and pleas for good behavior. As I see it, asking a cyclist and a driver to share the road is like asking fish and cats to just get along. We truly don’t understand each other and one of us is fully capable of rendering the other dead in a very quick and one-sided manner. We might truly live best in totally separate elements.

warren county bike path mapSo, perhaps, the best answer to keeping riders and runners safe is to not share the road whenever that is possible. I live near the Warren County Bikeway (a rail-to-trail bikeway). It’s not very long (about 10 miles between Glens Falls and Lake George), but where it’s a path separate from the road, cyclists are out of traffic. Much of the bikeway is still on streets and roads with only a slightly expanded shoulder that isn’t a true separation. Often, on these shared routes, the lane devoted to bicycles is strewn with broken glass, potholes and detritus from vehicular traffic which can often seem more dangerous for us to ride in the very space set aside for us.  As a result, many cyclists still ride in the roadway where cars constantly sweep the asphalt clean. Regardless, and with all its foibles, our bikeway starts and ends most of my rides specifically because I feel much safer on it than I do on the road. When I think about our modest bikeway, I can’t help but compare it to Ottawa where over 300 kilometers of bike paths make it possible to travel all over while barely touching a roadway.

The Warren County Bikeway was started in 1977 and completed in 1980. It cost about $650,000 (or $65,000 a mile). Is it just a pipe dream to think that we could afford such a luxury in the Adirondacks? After all, Ottawa is another nation’s capital. It has lots of money and it is carefully designed to be both a transportation opportunity and a tourist attraction. It’s idealistic, I guess, to assume that we could build so intelligent a series of paths here as the Canadians get to experience.

But, let’s really consider this for a moment. Rail-trail projects like the The Great Allegheny Passage (150 miles in Pennsylvania) or The Katy Trail (225 miles in Missouri) show us that these trails can be built fairly cheaply. Let’s think back to the hundreds of millions in public money we spent on the 1980 Olympics (in 1980 dollars, too). Let’s think about the current $1.9 billion dollar state budget being spent on road projects this year. Let’s think about little municipalities like Glens Falls spending $12 million dollars of public money on a roundabout (a pretty small asphalt circle) to facilitate more commuter traffic. Let’s think about all the times new traffic lights and intersections have been built with our tax money simply to make it easier for America consumers to get in and out of their nearest WalMart!

So why is it so hard to get elected representatives to understand the benefits of having pathways specifically for bicycles? Why aren’t we pressuring them to do something concrete for local cyclists in the Adirondack Park and for all the businesses that would benefit from vastly increased bike tourism? People love to ride in the Adirondacks already. Are we really going to sit idly by and watch the NYS Department of Transportation, as it (yet again) re-paves old roadways with only vehicle use in mind and without concern for the safety of pedestrians and cyclists?   Let’s try to look at it as an amazing opportunity to fix a very real problem and create a very real low-cost economic generator. With every repaving project, we have that opportunity to widen narrow shoulders and install dedicated lanes (which works very well at reducing collisions). Let’s also get serious about truly dedicated paths for cyclists that are separate from traffic.

Biking worldwide is growing by leaps and bounds. Munich began paying attention to these issues in about 1990 when only about 5% of its population identified themselves as cyclists.  Now, 15% of that city’s inhabitants say they are using their bikes to get back and forth to work and would use the word “cyclist” to describe themselves. U.S. figures for those self-identifying as cyclists are fairly similar, but many say that safety is the major reason why cycling is not usually their first choice for transportation.

Major cities the world over have been making their roadways safer for bicycles with nothing but positive results. Many European cities already had smart policies regarding bike traffic in mind as they planned roadway projects, and now some American cities are following suit. The “Green Lane Project” is working its magic in six metropolitan cities (a “green lane” is just that, a wide painted green path on a roadway specifically for bike traffic only). The results of this work is starting to be revealed in some heartening health and safety statistics that should remind us of the opportunities we have right now to establish dedicated bike trails and green lanes, and offer a boon for tourism. In 2012 a green lane built on 9th Street in Manhattan netted an overall 49% increase in retail business for business owners within its first year (while the average Manhattan retailer only saw a 3% increase that same year). This may be attributed to cyclists returning more frequently to areas where they feel they can ride safely.

Perhaps, if we were thoughtful about it, we would realize the amazing potential that lies in catering to cyclists from outside the area. It’s really beautiful here and the cyclist in me, for one, thinks it’s far more beautiful when you’re not forced to share the view with smoke-belching vehicles and their often angry pilots.

Let’s expand our vision to include safer cycling in the Adirondack Park by creating dedicated bike paths, wider shoulders, and adding green lanes to our roadways.  There is no downside to catering to those of us on two wheels. We come in peace and we are dedicated to enjoying the natural beauty of the Adirondacks. We also bring our wallets (they’re just smaller to fit into our jersey pouches or seat bags).

 

Matt Funiciello

Matt Funiciello

Matt Funiciello is the owner of Rock Hill Bakehouse in Glens Falls, New York. Originally from Saratoga Springs, he self-identifies as a cyclist although he wears many other hats as well, including father, baker, writer, activist, local food and art supporter, and business owner.

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36 Responses

  1. @tourpro says:

    I respectfully disagree. Adequate infrastructure and education of users makes “Road Sharing” safe and efficient.

    Bike-paths are not the solution and only creates further physical and mental separation between users. If we lived in a tiny-Dutch city, then perhaps a dedicated bike-lane system is realistic, but around here, the mere fact of snow-removal makes such design impossible.

    Hot debate. What do you think? Thumb up 5 Thumb down 9

  2. lynne berry says:

    You don’t have to go to Europe to expierience great biking…..Iowa is outstanding. Hundreds of miles of no-cars-allowed paved paths and lots of bikers. The tourism industrires all benefit from this resource. The ‘Dacks should move in this direction.

    Well-loved. Like or Dislike: Thumb up 5 Thumb down 0

  3. bicyclist-adk resident says:

    That’s a well written article.
    When bikers stay on the shoulder (of course with the exception of avoiding horrendous pavement or when it’s simply too narrow [i.e. Wilmington Notch]), I think cars and bicyclists should be able to share the road as equals with mutual respect.

    My point of contention involves those cyclists who don’t seem to comprehend that ‘share the road’ applies equally to themselves as well as drivers. Not all, but many bicyclists feel they own the road thus creating a problem for all involved. Have you ever tried to safely pass an ‘entitled’ group of ironmen in training that are riding 3 abreast? As an ADK resident, I’ve found that this is not the exception; many have a total lack of consideration for those whose area they are enjoying (and, I realize bringing revenue to). They don’t respond to a gentle toot of the horn and move back to the shoulder…dangerous for themselves as well as vehicles. Daily life goes on in the areas they are riding; drivers need to also be respected as they attend to emergencies, commuting, appointments etc. I could go on and on with examples, but will leave it with this.

    Bicyclists need to be equally attentive to sharing the road, need to equally considerate. Don’t demand respect if you don’t show it to others. I don’t think that’s asking too much.

    Well-loved. Like or Dislike: Thumb up 14 Thumb down 3

    • Paul says:

      The type of riders you are talking about (Iron-man triathletes) are riding 30 or 40 miles per hour. They are riding three abreast to remind you that they have the same rights to the road that you do as a driver. Just like you would have to wait for a safe place to pass a slower moving vehicle (grandma on her way home from church) you have to do that for these riders. Just learn to be patient. With that said all riders need to stop at light and stop signs at the end of the line of traffic. It bothers me when riders ignore these rules and they should not be surprised when they get hit passing you on the right.

      Hot debate. What do you think? Thumb up 6 Thumb down 4

      • bicyclist-adk resident says:

        …same rights as a driver? Should we drive with cars 3 abreast now?

        No, that’s pure inconsideration and disrespect. How would your patience sit if, say, your grandmother had need of you and 3 bikers were training halfway out in the middle of the road…in the way of your right to drive the speed limit and get to your destination in a timely manner. 30 mph in a 55 zone is pure inconsideration when a shoulder is available. Don’t try to tell me otherwise.

        By the way, i use a tri-bike and train as well so I see both sides of this.

        Hot debate. What do you think? Thumb up 6 Thumb down 4

        • Paul says:

          55 is the speed limit, that is the fastest you can go not the speed you are required to drive. Just wait and pass when it’s safe. Just like with other automobiles you have no “right” to drive the speed limit if that means running over or into the car in front of you. BTW I ride a road bike quite a lot also and I never ride even two abreast but these riders do have the right to do it under the law. They were not riding in the oncoming lane were they? Also, 30 or 40 miles per hour on some of the crappy shoulders (often covered with sand and other debris) in the Adirondacks is not safe to ride on at those speeds. You are sharing the ROAD with the riders not ROW.

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        • MR says:

          Riding on a narrow shoulder like those in the adks can be quite dangerous for cyclists. They ride 3-wide to claim the lane and force drivers to wait for a safe place to pass. Bikes are considered vehicles and are legally allowed the whole lane. It’s not disrespect, it’s safety. Have you ever noticed how motorcycles ride in groups? They stagger themselves to take up the lane and make themselves more visible.

          I currently live in an area of the country where riding on the road is quite dangerous. Not claiming the lane can be a fatal mistake.

          The cyclists that annoy me are the ones that don’t follow the laws like they are required (i.e. going through red lights, stop signs, passing on the right, etc.)

          Like or Dislike this comment: Thumb up 4 Thumb down 2

          • I’m copying NY vehicle/traffic law on bicycles. It directly address the 3-abreast issue, the claim that bikers are allowed the whole lane (false) and the requirement that bikers fall into single file when being approached by a vehicle.

            “Section 1234. Riding on roadways, shoulders, bicycle lanes and bicycle paths.

            (a) Upon all roadways, any bicycle shall be driven either on a usable bicycle lane or, if a usable bicycle lane has not been provided, near the right-hand curb or edge of the roadway or upon a usable right- hand shoulder in such a manner as to prevent undue interference with the flow of traffic except when preparing for a left turn or when reasonably necessary to avoid conditions that would make it unsafe to continue along near the right-hand curb or edge. Conditions to be taken into consideration include, but are not limited to, fixed or moving objects, vehicles, bicycles, pedestrians, animals, surface hazards or traffic lanes too narrow for a bicycle and a vehicle to travel safely side-by-side within the lane.
            (b) Persons riding bicycles upon a roadway shall not ride more than two abreast. Persons riding bicycles upon a shoulder, bicycle lane or bicycle path intended for the use of bicycles may ride two or more abreast if sufficient space is available, except when passing a vehicle, bicycle or pedestrian standing or proceeding along such shoulder, lane or path, persons riding bicycles shall ride single file. Persons riding bicycles upon a roadway shall ride single file when being overtaken by another vehicle.
            (c) Any person operating a bicycle who is entering the roadway from a private road, driveway, alley or over a curb shall come to a full stop before entering the roadway. ”

            Full page: http://wings.buffalo.edu/law/bclc/web/NewYork/nybikes.htm

            We should all share the road; drivers should be aware and considerate, so should cyclists.

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        • Daily Bike Commuter says:

          You wait until it oncoming traffic clears and it is safe for YOU to pass your impatience is not an emergency for them
          to fall out of your way and if your grandmother was that bad off you could call an ambulance

          55 is the maximum speed, you don’t have to drive 55, just leave 10 minutes earlier

          I’m sure you are just in a hurry to buy cigarettes and a 40 ouncer

          Like or Dislike this comment: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 3

    • Jason says:

      You say that your “point of contention involves those cyclists who don’t seem to comprehend that ‘share the road’ applies equally to themselves as well as drivers.” While I concede that these inconsiderate riders exist, I would say that either you don’t ride your bike on busy roads very often, or you are discounting the lack of consideration from drivers. I actually had one (on Glen St. in Glens Falls, as I was riding as far over as I could, and quite legally) yell at me that he hoped, “my whole family dies.” Yeah, I know, I was shocked. I think your example alongside the many examples of why cars are tough on cyclists, are more fuel for the fire for Matt’s point. We should be able to share the road, but we also should be cogent enough to know when something that should work simply isn’t working. Don’t you think?

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  4. Thanks for getting this out there. As one of the directors of the 1-Eye Classic, a cycling event whose purpose is to get more people riding up here (Schroon Lake), we’ve had many discussions around how to promote safe riding etiquette, driver awareness, etc. We post signs the weekend of the event that say “Share the Road”. Bike lanes on roads that are being repaved are clearly not on the DOT’s agenda. I think getting more young people biking would be a start, bike clinics where the parents (drivers) would also hear the concerns and rules of the roads.

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  5. Roadusertoo says:

    “Road sharing” is certainly not ideal but is what we have. I dont necessairly agree that we (bikers & auto pilots) cant get along better as i see the need for greater tolerance Everywhere. That being said, I would love to see an expansion of dedicated, wide, maintained, bike lanes. And I think a good argument can be made to justify the expense. Not only would it be a plus for the slow economy of the adirondacks, it is a bonus for those of us that live here on the “quality of life” front.

    “Snow removal makes such designs impossible”? Really? I don’t get it.
    As far as bikers riding abreast: it doesn’t seem much different than cars occasionally swerving over the lines or the Amish using the “auto” lane. Letting someone on the road ruin your day is something the “ruined” should seek to resolve in oneself. I would guess that emergency vehicles are rarely held up by bikers riding abreast. Commuting & appointments are not, in my mind, something to ask the rest of the road users to share. Leave earlier because there are gawkers, walkers, bikers, and Amish on the road too.

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  6. marisa muratori says:

    Matt…You say you’ve had but one crash and that was on a bike path…and this is a good point about mixed uses on one network. When the Warren County bike path was first built my friends and I used to ride our ten speeds as fast as we could from Lake George to Glens Falls…Until we saw some bad accidents on the path. ( Hey, we thought it was a bike path.) But people walking dogs, baby strollers, runners, kids goofing around …they all want to get away from automobile traffic too…

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  7. david says:

    Very well said Matt. Here’s hoping the Champlain Canal Bike Path from Ft Edward to Whitehall actually gets built someday (http://www.hudsoncrossingpark.org/virtualtour/files/Download/CCTActionPlanConceptMapforHCP.pdf).

    First time out on a bike every year, I reach for my seat belt.

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  8. Matt,
    Bravo my friend. You might like to read through this: “Trails Master Plan for West Side of Lake George. April 2013 Draft”….http://bit.ly/159c2Jr

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  9. Rob F says:

    Thought provoking article. What concerns me is how many drivers and cyclists I see who seem unaware of basic safety practices — let alone the state laws — regarding sharing the road.

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  10. Wally Elton Wally says:

    Just the kind of vision we need throughout the state and beyond. It makes sense in so many ways beyond bicyclist safety, too – economics, public health, survival of the planet. Saratoga Springs has started developing a plan for a greenbelt loop connecting existing trails and destinations.

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  11. Curt Austin says:

    It is never legal for cyclists to ride three abreast in NY. In fact, while two-abreast is legal, you are required to fall into single file when there is traffic; that seems too conditional to be of much use (unlike, say, in Ohio). Legalities aside, it is not wise to ride in a manner that will unnecessarily anger motorists. There is an unfortunate dynamic in group riding – groups are not as wise as individuals – that leads to three-abreast riding, and worse.

    In general, this article brings out something that has always been controversial – creating special bicycling facilities can potentially interfere with campaigns to make roads safer for cycling. I don’t believe cyclists should choose sides in this – few of us should want the other side to lose. Cycling is a diverse activity, ranging from simple transportation to pure recreation, from casual to serious. Important to a community and – here – for the tourism industry.

    Incidentally, Warren County has an organization that looks out for cyclists – the Warren County Safe and Quality Bicycling Organization. They have a new website, bikewarrenco.org. There’s a meeting today, Matt….

    Like or Dislike this comment: Thumb up 3 Thumb down 0

    • Paul says:

      “It is never legal for cyclists to ride three abreast in NY. In fact, while two-abreast is legal, you are required to fall into single file when there is traffic”

      Even in single file cars need to slow down to get safely around a bike riding along the edge of the road if there is not a safe shoulder (like many many roads in the Adirondacks). Any part of the road being used by the bike (even if it is a foot) means that the car has to move into some part of the lane of oncoming traffic where some form of a head on collision will result if there is a car coming the other way. Many cars simply don’t think that they should have to slow down and wait for an opportunity to pass a rider. Most seem to think that the prudent thing to do is quickly swerve around the rider. I see this every day 50 or so times. That is what probably makes some riders feel like it is safer to ride two abreast where cars will see them better and figure this out.

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  12. hatetosayit says:

    The sad fact is that many if not most motorists don’t pay attention to the rules of the road and most don’t even know the basics of who has the right of way. I’m sure everyone reading this article can relate several incredibly stupid things people do behind the wheel of a car or even large trucks.
    The ridiculously easy way that drivers licenses are handed out in most states will guarantee collisions/accidents of all kinds, sadly for the bicyclists who will generaly fair the worst.

    Like or Dislike this comment: Thumb up 4 Thumb down 1

  13. dave says:

    Bikes are not cars, and they should not be treated as such or expected to act as such.

    That was my conclusion after a decade of bike commuting in a major east coast city (Boston) and it is still my conclusion now that I live in the Adirondacks (right on the Ironman bike course)

    These are two extremely different modes of transportation, and so of course throwing them out there on the roads together, and holding them both to the same general rules while there, leads to conflict and dangerous (even deadly) interactions.

    Asking a car to drive 20 mph on a 55mph highway because there are 3 cyclists riding side by side is just as silly as asking a bicyclist not to roll through a 4 way stop sign when there are no cars there.

    Bikes are not cars.

    We need policy and rules and public infrastructure that understands and accounts for this very basic, very obvious, fact.

    Well-loved. Like or Dislike: Thumb up 5 Thumb down 1

  14. lynne berry says:

    These comments prove Matt’s point. Without wide, safe shoulders or bike trails to ride on, bikers are unsafe and drivers are annoyed, period.
    So let’s fix it already….

    Like or Dislike this comment: Thumb up 3 Thumb down 0

  15. Eric says:

    I am confused when drivers express frustration and anger at having to slow for bicyclists and wait for an opportunity to safely pass. If we do the math it simply does not cost drivers an amount of delay worth stressing over. Slowing from sixty miles an hour to say twenty for five minutes may delay the driver by a couple of minutes. The reality is that usually only a brief slowing to pass is required for safety and courtesy.

    I understand that many drivers may not see why a bicycle or group is not as far over as the driver perceives they should be. The driver can’t see the hazards we see in that small stretch of road. I would ask that drivers give us the benefit of doubt and trust that most of us want to be as far out of the way as possible. And for those who are newer to the sport or not as skilled, please just give a little room and hope the cyclist learns quickly.

    I feel like much of this conflict comes with our frantic driving lives in which we are often feeling late and under pressure. In cars we feel disconnected from others. The kind of yelling, swearing and gestures that I have experienced on occasion from drivers I think simply would not happen if we were walking along together and a conflict arose.

    A simple distraction from attention as a driver or a heated moment behind the wheel can quickly become tragic. I am so appreciative when drivers slow and pass with care. Often I will wave a quick thank you. It’s so easy to be considerate of each other and we all feel better when we are.

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  16. Hope Frenette says:

    I had an incident just the other day when I was waiting to make a left hand turn. I was stopped waiting for oncoming traffic to pass, I was correctly in the car lane at the far left side close to the center line. There had been no traffic behind me when I signaled the left hand turn and went out in the lane but as I waited to make the turn a large pick-up truck driven by a young adult came bearing down on me honking his horn and swearing at me for being in the road like I had no right to be there at all. This is something that is not adequately taught in drivers education nor is it tested in the driver’s test. If young people don’t understand the rules of the road as it pertains to pedestrians and bicyclists then more and more serious accidents will happen.
    This is why I am a big supporter of The Adirondack Rail Trail because pedestrians and bicyclers need a venue for these healthy activities.

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  17. LCI says:

    I think what you need is a bicycle riding course. You didn’t learn to drive just by driving, you had someone teach you, right?

    The same is true of riding a bicycle. Learning how to ride safely is something very few riders have learned, despite the number of miles they have.

    I suggest you sign up for a League of American Bicyclists Road I course. It will be a great help to you in feeling — and being — safe on the road.

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  18. Matt Funiciello Matt Funiciello says:

    I really appreciate all the feedback, thus far. Thank you! I am really loving all of the thoughts you are taking the time to express (even those with which I do not entirely agree).

    I like the advocating of safety courses and better licensing of drivers. These are good steps forward.

    I like the idea that we HAVE to share the road better in some places because a dedicated path is simply not possible (right of way issues, budgets etc.).

    But, in the end, I am still advocating for as much separation as is possible and the building of trails. It’s really the only safe way to move forward as more and more of us take to two wheels.

    It’s a simple fact that, even if you are a cautious and responsible rider, if you’re in an accident with a car, you are the one who is going to be seriously hurt. Cyclists HAVE to see every accident as their own fault and ride defensively because, in said accident, a bad driver will hurt or kill us, likely not themselves.

    Again, I am not against bike lanes or wider shoulders at all. I am simply advocating for as many bike trails as we can build because I see them as MUCH safer than bike lanes and they really are proven economic generators.

    I have spent the last few days contemplating what many have said to me (here and elsewhere) about “sharing the road” being the right answer to this quandary and I am left with this question.

    “Boardwalks” were originally built to provide pedestrians with a safe and unmuddied place to walk due to the growth of horse and wagon traffic and also poor drainage. It was understood by all that it wasn’t really safe to have faster heavier traffic and lighter more delicate traffic sharing the same path.

    With the advent of pavement, we didn’t just stop producing sidewalks and advocate that pedestrians and cars should share paths. In fact, if anything, we stepped up that separation between car and pedestrian. We recognized that they needed to be kept separate … and not share the road.

    So, why did we ever feel it was safe to put bikes and cars together on the same path? It was just necessity. We have never built dedicated bike paths. We’ve designed all of our roadways for automobile use alone. In a world that will see $10 a gallon gas not so far down the road, should we really continue designing and engineering this way with no plan to accommodate those looking for better answers?

    (And, just so we all know, I very much resent unattended children and irresponsible people on bike paths just as I do irresponsible drivers on the road. But, after my own crash, I have ridden with much greater caution whenever I am likely to encounter human traffic and I am far more aware of the direct consequences to me should I fail to take that responsibility seriously.

    So, really, having pedestrians and bikes share paths isn’t so ideal either, it’s just far less dangerous than mixing cars and bicycles, in my mind.)

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    • Daily Bike Commuter says:

      Actually the reason roads were originally paved was for the use of bicycles not autos …So autos are the encroacher on roads not bicycles…..and automobiles were deemed so dangerous they were supposed to have a person walking out front with a light or a horn to warn when they were coming

      We would all be better off if this were the case today
      40,000 lives a year might be saved

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      • Daily Bike Commuter says:

        Also we ALL have every right to use the roads , we all pay for roads mostly thru property and state taxes, only a very, very small amount comes from gasoline taxes.

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  19. spare_wheel says:

    I consider every opportunity to take a “motorist’s” lane an opportunity to serve the greater good.

    PS: Some of my friends and family are motorists.

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    • Paul says:

      Matt, If you look at my reply to Curt above I suspect that this practice of riding several abreast is a form of “defensive riding”. This pisses off cars but you are probable less likely to be dead meat in that scenario then the crazy fast swerve around a single rider. And the faster you are riding the more annoyed they are about dealing with having to get around your would-be-corpse. The idea is also probably that the single unsafe idiot driver is less likely to get out and try and beat up a large group of well trained athletes?

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  20. Trying to slow down says:

    I can’t believe all the comments in favor of bikers riding 2, 3, or even 4 across. This is insane. I drive big trucks for a living, and coming down any hill with a full road, it is very hard to slow down fast. There is no need for a bicyclist to “claim the lane”. Single file should be a law, and tickets should be issued if the law is not followed. This debate pops up every year in newspapers and online. I would really hate to see anyone get hurt, but I feel like if that does unfortunately happen, maybe stricter rules will be put in place. Is that conversation with your biking buddy really worth your life? I think it can wait. Please.

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    • Eric says:

      Trying to slow down,

      Thank you very much for sharing your perspective and concern as a profesional driver. As a cyclist and someone who drives about twenty hours a week as part of my job, I am often so impressed with drivers of big trucks. I find that while cycling you all are very likely to give us a wide berth. And I imagine that kind of courtesy must be difficult to accomplish.

      Normally cyclists in a group get strung out with some distance between riders on a downhill. I am not a rider who claims a lane in a group and I keep the occasional riding two abreast short and on secondary roads. But please do know that in a group of riders, a transition in who is leading will occur. I think that transition should be done quickly with an eye on traffic and conditions.

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  21. Bad bikers says:

    Take a ride down Forest Home Road (saranac lake area) some weekend. Bikers 3 abreast on a road with no shoulder and very tight turns.

    I came around a corner one day last year and 2 bikers headed in the opposite direction, riding side by side, one was in the oncoming lane.

    But, my biggest objection to road bikers are the packages. Why do I have to see that? One small step below truck-nuts.

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  22. Tom says:

    I like the ideas you are proposing. I can’t help but think that dedicated Bike/Running trails are a good thing for the ADKs. My idea would be to tie this into Triathlons, Duathlons, etc. and make some of these trails a part of these events. ADK could become a destination for multisport enthusiasts bringing in significantly money to the region. What is the financial impact of having the Lake Placid Ironman on that community?

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  23. Josh Wilson says:

    Matt,

    I enjoyed reading your post and appreciate hearing your perspective on bicycling in the Adirondacks. I wanted to respond to some of your points in this paragraph:

    “So why is it so hard to get elected representatives to understand the benefits of having pathways specifically for bicycles?”

    I think many elected officials recognize the potential benefits of bike paths that are separate from the roadway, as well as other bicycle infrastructure. I’ve spoken with many local officials in the Adirondacks that absolutely recognize the economic potential of increased bicycle tourism. But elected officials must contend with the reality of their dwindling local/county highway budgets, and the difficulty of accessing state and federal funding streams to build this infrastructure. In order to become champions for these improvements, elected officials need to see the return on investment for these facilities, and they need to see demonstrated public support and demand for such projects.

    “Why aren’t we pressuring them to do something concrete for local cyclists in the Adirondack Park and for all the businesses that would benefit from vastly increased bike tourism? People love to ride in the Adirondacks already.”

    It may not be widely publicized, but many people across the Adirondacks and the North Country, and across the state, are working every day to advocate for and promote improved bicycle and pedestrian infrastructure in their communities. When it comes to upgrading highway and bicycle infrastructure, there are usually no quick fixes. Advocates must be prepared for the long-haul, they must be organized, and they must do the hard work of engaging those that may not be immediately supportive.

    “Are we really going to sit idly by and watch the NYS Department of Transportation, as it (yet again) re-paves old roadways with only vehicle use in mind and without concern for the safety of pedestrians and cyclists?”

    No, we are not. Just last summer I was part of a local coalition that petitioned the DOT to make a small change to a repaving project on Rt. 86 between Lake Placid and Saranac Lake, which ultimately led to wider shoulders for bicyclists on that very congested roadway (without expanding the width of the roadway or adding any additional cost to the project). As the only statewide bicycle advocacy organization, New York Bicycling Coalition works every day to make our local streets and state highways more bicycle-friendly. We are constantly engaging DOT and other transportation agencies to represent the interests of all bicyclists in New York.

    “Let’s try to look at it as an amazing opportunity to fix a very real problem and create a very real low-cost economic generator. With every repaving project, we have that opportunity to widen narrow shoulders and install dedicated lanes (which works very well at reducing collisions).”

    You are correct that repaving projects are an opportunity to make low-cost improvements that can improve bicycle safety. Repaving projects for the most part are considered maintenance, not reconstruction. If any change is going to happen during a repaving project, it must be within the space of the existing roadway. In other words, if we are looking at a typical state highway in the Adirondacks, shoulders can be widened, but only if vehicle lane width is reduced. This is accomplished through re-striping. Adding width to the existing roadway to make wider shoulders or bike lanes requires additional design, engineering, Right of Way acquisition, stormwater management treatments, and many other details that would turn a simple repaving project into a much more costly reconstruction project.

    The DOT is facing massive reductions in federal transportation funding, and recently adopted a “Preservation First” policy, which basically means they are spending a good portion of highway dollars on keeping roadways that are already in good or fair condition from deteriorating any further. New York also has a huge backlog of bridge projects, and not nearly enough money to fix them all, which also contributes to a lack of funding for highway reconstruction that could include bicycle facilities. New York Bicycling Coalition and other statewide organizations are working every day to ensure that bicycle and pedestrian projects are not ignored under this policy, and to identify best practices for using other available funding streams for bicycle and pedestrian projects.

    “Let’s also get serious about truly dedicated paths for cyclists that are separate from traffic.”

    I agree, separate bike paths are one part of the solution. But finding appropriate routes for such paths is very difficult, especially in the Adirondacks where many roadways between communities are flanked on both sides with NYS Forest Preserve land. Gaining easements and right-of-way acquisitions to facilitate the construction of these paths is often extremely difficult.

    In conclusion, again, I very much appreciated your post and I’m thankful for the opportunity to respond to just one small piece of it. I don’t mean to sound pessimistic in my response, but I think as bicycle advocates, everything we push for must be grounded in reality. It is easy to say that we need more bike lanes, wider shoulders, and bike paths…I couldn’t agree more – WE DO!…but it is much more difficult to contend with the reality of actually making that happen. If it is going to happen in the Adirondacks and NYS, it is going to happen incrementally, with many, many small steps and constant, long-term vigilance and engagement by advocates. Thank you for your advocacy and passion on this issue.

    I’m happy to talk with you directly about these issues. You can contact me through our website…www.nybc.net

    Josh Wilson
    Executive Director
    New York Bicycling Coalition
    (full-time resident of the Adirondack Park)

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  24. Daily Bike Commuter says:

    Here is an interesting read on how bicycles were legislated off the roads

    http://iamtraffic.org/equality/the-marginalization-of-bicyclists/

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