Letter: Bicyclists should ride facing traffic

The following letter to the editor was published in the Arizona Republic Jun. 1, 2010, under the heading “Bicyclists should ride facing traffic“:

Once again, it has happened – another bicyclist run down. This time an 8-year-old girl is in serious condition.

I want to know why the law hasn’t been changed to have bicyclists ride facing traffic so at least they can see if the car is being driven erratically, giving them a chance to avoid being hit. This type of accident will surely increase as warm weather approaches. I have lived here since 1959 and come from a state where this has always been the law – and I don’t remember any bicyclist being hit there.

This letter, of course, shows a profound misunderstanding of traffic safety, so Gene Holmerud, our VP of education, penned a short response letter that was published June 7:

Regarding Ms. Hilliard’s letter “Bicyclists should ride facing traffic”.

I am glad for the writer’s concern for the safety of cyclists and desire for cycling to be a legitimate mode of transportation in our state. The latest comprehensive study of bicycle crash and injury incidents shows only one-third involve a motor vehicle. Of those incidents that do involve a motor vehicle, the largest single category of causes is the error of riding against traffic, nearly five times the motorists’ error of being hit from behind.

The League of American Bicyclists and the Coalition of Arizona Bicyclists present fact-based classes for cyclists and motorists on how to “Share the Road” safely and effectively. State laws are an important part of the program, none of which condone riding against traffic. We encourage participation in these classes.

Gene Holmerud
Educational Vice-President
Coalition of Arizona Bicyclists
League Cycling Instructor #1193

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5 Comments

  1. I wrote a reply as well, and received an e-mail that confirmed receipt of my letter. It was not published. Here is the text of my letter:Regarding Ms. Hilliard’s letter “Bicyclists should ride facing traffic,” I am dismayed that this letter has been published because it perpetuates incorrect, dangerous beliefs about how to safely operate a bicycle. Traveling against traffic only works for pedestrians, who move relatively slowly. It increases bicyclists’ risks of accidents because drivers do not check for fast-moving vehicles traveling against traffic. Current laws treat bicycles as vehicles, meaning that bicyclists should obey the same traffic laws as motorized vehicles, and should always travel with traffic.

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  2. I imagine the paper got many submissions in response; here is the one they chose to publish:Keep bicyclists on the right pathJun. 5, 2010 12:00 AMAs an avid bicyclist who has ridden for over30 years, I have to take exception to theletter suggesting that bicyclists should ridefacing traffic (“Bicyclists should ride facingtraffic,” Tuesday).This view, commonly held by non-bicyclists,is rooted in the mistaken belief that if abicyclist is facing traffic, there will be fewaccidents.The truth is, more accidents would resultbecause the vast majority of motorvehicle/bicycle accidents occur atintersections where paths intersect.Motorists making turns tend to focus ononcoming traffic as they pull out andgenerally do not look for bicyclists comingfrom the other direction.It is far safer for bicyclists to travel with theflow of traffic and follow the same rules ofthe road as motor vehicles.It is also incumbent upon motorists to obeyArizona Revised Statute 28-735, which dealswith overtaking bicycles.- Brian Buckmaster, Fountain Hills

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  3. It may be more effective to respond to a letter like that by explaining why it is better from an automobile driver’s point of view if cyclists travel with traffic rather than against it. The Buckmaster letter includes one sentence with that POV (“Motorists making turns tend to focus…”) but it’s very possible few car drivers will even read that far, since the letter begins “As an avid bicyclist…” and ends with a slap on the wrist to motorists not relevant to the issue. This stance just perpetuates a cyclists vs. motorists perspective of the original letter, which is going nowhere since the whole idea is blending together harmoniously on the roads, not clashing with acrimony.

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