Wednesday, August 09, 2006

A 'suggestion' from OHP

Lookit, Marge! A bah-sickle!

A suggestion from the Oklahoma Highway Patrol to area cyclists is circulating on local email lists. There's a road closure along SH20 for bridge construction, and much of the traffic is diverting onto county roads that go around the affected area. The problem is that the regular Monday night ride goes up Killer Hill, aka Nichols Hill, and numerous motorists are using it as a detour. They complain about having to slow down on that steep, narrow, winding two-lane in order to pass bicycle riders. Imagine that. They have to cross the centerline – in a no-passing zone, if I recall correctly – and somehow it’s those pesky cyclists forcing them to perform an illegal and possibly dangerous maneuver.

If motorists are passing in an unsafe manner, shouldn't police be targeting them rather than cyclists, who are operating their vehicles safely and legally? Should any of us, motorists or cyclists, give up our right to use the public roads because others cannot obey the law?

Here’s the original e-mail:


I am sending this message to all of the ones that participated in the last
bike race with the hope that it can be distributed to all area bike clubs..

The closure of S.H. 20 between Claremore and Owasso has caused a huge
amount of traffic to be diverted to the county roads between Claremore and
Tulsa. A large part of this traffic now travels S.H. 266 from Claremore and Tulsa and then north on 193rd East Avenue, sometimes called Nichols
Hills Road or as the bikers refer to as Killer Hill, near the Port of Catoosa.

We are requesting that the riders refrain from using this route during the
closure of S.H. 20. The large amount of bikes in the afternoon are causing
a huge problem with traffic trying to get up and down Nichols Hill. It is
the bike traffic that travels north up the hill that is causing vehicular
traffic to go left of center to pass on the hill.

Please try to pass this information to the appropriate bike groups that use
this route. We would appreciate everyones assistance with this.

Lt. Eddie Kirkland #66
Oklahoma Highway Patrol
Vinita, Ok



Traffic? What traffic?

Lt. Kirkland’s assumption is that bicyclists aren't legitimate vehicular traffic. They're riding for recreation, sport, or fitness, and they should stay out of the way of 'real' traffic. If this argument were thought through to its logical conclusion, cyclists should avoid ALL roads that have significant motor vehicle use. Cyclists should meekly accept their second-class status, tug their forelocks to their betters, and kowtow as necessary.

Bunk!

Some law enforcement officers may take a small step from “cyclists should not use the road” to “cyclists cannot use the road”. There’s been ample precedent for this with local officers (not OHP to my knowledge) and it’s a genuine concern.

I'm sure that Lt. Kirkland's first thought is for the safety of everyone using that stretch of road, but he reflects a common bias against cyclists, a persistent bias that perceives bicyclists as secondary road users. If sharing that road with motorists is dangerous, then any road with motor vehicle traffic could be deemed too dangerous for cyclists. I prefer to make the decision myself, and I certainly object when someone tries to make the decision for me.

"Share the Road" by avoiding the road?

One writer said that we should be willing to prevent congestion and mitigate dangerous conditions, and we could do so by avoiding Nichols Hill. He went on to say that this shows our support for sharing the road with motorists. Yes, that's right. We should show our commitment to share the road by not riding on the road, a twisted bit of logic worthy of the Bush administration.

Another writer said that he avoids the alternative route, Port Road, because of the heavy traffic and debris-strewn shoulder. He doesn't mind upsetting the motorists on the hill. I think that attitude is more indicative of a vehicular cyclist, because he’s intent on getting from one point to another. Does a motorist get concerned whether other motorists are upset by his mere presence? Of course not. So why should cyclists be concerned?

I paraphrased another writer up above when she asked, “If motorists are passing in an unsafe manner, shouldn't police be targeting them rather than cyclists, who are operating their vehicles safely and legally? Should any of us, motorists and cyclists alike, give up our right to use the public roads because others cannot obey the law?” This really cuts to the heart of the issue. Cyclists are being advised not to use the road because motorists are operating their vehicles in a dangerous manner that disregards the safety of everyone they encounter. I hate to belabor the point, but the cyclists aren’t acting illegally or irresponsibly, yet they’re expected to find some other route because motorists cannot drive responsibly. This is an Alice In Wonderland solution, removing lawful road users for the benefit of unlawful ones.

The worrisome component in all of this is the assumption that cyclists run unacceptably high risks simply by traveling on our public roads, an assumption that is patently false. Since we’re obviously not sensible people, we need someone to look after us, as if we’re some doddering, drooling old uncle. I truly appreciate the consideration for our safety, but I do not need a nanny to tell me where to ride, particularly when that nanny has little or no experience of cycling in traffic.

4 Comments:

Blogger Paul Tay said...

Suppose you advise the Lt. Kirkland of your concerns. Otherwise, you are simply preachin' to da choir.

Yell 'GOD BLESS AMERICA' in a room full of disabled veterans and nothing changes. Yell 'God Bless America' in a room full of Taliban. DAT's news!

BTW, you're getting to be SUCH a whiner.

10:24 PM  
Blogger Paul Tay said...

Another thought on this situation: Part of the reason the motoring public and law enforcement don't take bicycles seriously as traffic is because bicyclists themselves don't take themselves seriously as traffic.

When placing blame, look in the mirror first. Santa isn't rolling on the Broken Arrow Expressway, I-44, and 169 just for his health, ya know.

10:32 PM  
Blogger Fritz said...

You crack me up, Paul. I thought the health benefits of "Santa's" trips through Tulsa are very clear.

12:22 PM  
Blogger George said...

............some law enforcement officers may take a small step from “cyclists should not use the road” to “cyclists cannot use the road”.

Ya think? :-)

I'd love to give the police the benefit of the doubt but I bet you will be reporting about "Officer Friendly" pulling a bunch of you riders over and hassling you somrtime in the near future.

Ride on....

11:49 AM  

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