As some of you may know, I have been chair of the Bloomington Bicycle and Pedestrian Safety Commission for a number of years. We look at building plans and recommend bike/ped amenities for new projects, we review traffic calming applications from neighborhoods, make suggestions as how to improve the bike/ped infrastructure. At the top of the list for me is safety, I have been worried for years about the bad attitudes of both bikers and motorists, everyone is alway such a hurry that common courtesy and traffic laws are run over.
I just got an email from an IU employee commutes to Bloomington, and is worried about hitting a reckless biker, and following is my quickly written reply.
Sent: Monday, April 14, 2008 12:18 PM
I am not a resident of Bloomington but commute Monday through Friday to work at IU. I would like to make a suggestion. It is my understanding that bicyclist are required to obey traffic rules however stopping at four way stops and red lights seem to be laws some bicycle feel exempt from. Many times I have witnessed bicyclist go straight through four way stops, often endangering drivers who are obeying the laws. My fear is that one day I may hit or injure one of the bicyclist or even injure myself trying to avoid hitting them. Since the Bloomington business area contains many stops perhaps this could be a topic of concern.
I share your concern. I do not drive, and I do bike everywhere. Bikers who behave as you describe seem to be the norm, or at least a significant percentage of riders. When I did drive, I experienced the scenario you mention, where a bike rider going down hill ignored a stop sign (and he was coming from out of the setting sun), and he ended up on my hood. I assure you, his vehicle was in much worse shape than mine from the encounter. He apologized and carried his broken bike home.
Because so many cyclists do bust through stop signs, mmany motorists seem shocked when I actually slow down and stop at interesections. They wave me on, even if it is clearly their right of way, but I never accept. I just want everyone to obey the rules, as do you.
But when we have asked (I’m chair of the Bloomington Bicycle and Pedestrian Safety Commission) for more enforcement, we found that is just not possible according to the chief of police, they djust o not have the resources.
Think of how many car drivers just slow down at stop signs, who sneak around corners with out stopping, who ignore “No right turn on red” signs, and who speed in town. The police have told us that traffic enforcement is a priority, but they do not focus on bikes. Remember a car can be a deadly weapon, can be used for homicide, it is 2 tons of heavy metal, but a careless rude biker will most likely hurt only themselves. This is not my position necessarily, but it is how the police prioritize. Our commission reviews all traffic calming requests that neigborhoods submit, and there are always neighborhoods asking. They know that enforcement does not stop speeding, and that is why the Feds supply money for traffic calming. We have engineered our streets for cars, and people are left to walk and ride bikes on the fringes. I don’t see this as sustainable, and I look favorably at most traffic calming projects.
I have repeatedly asked for more education for bicyclists, and more enforcement from police. Enforcement could be useful tool in educating our always changing poplulation of bikers, but as I mention, this is not on the agenda at this time. So education must be the keystone of any attempt to change the behavior of reckless bikers (and motorists).
There are thousands of new people who come to Bloomington from around the country and around the world each year, and they do not have the information to bike safely in our city. Many do not know that bikes are to follow the automotive traffic laws, and they are prone to dangerous mistakes (that seem safe) like riding against traffic and on sidwalks, which aer the two most statistically dangerous things you can do on a bike. IU should be involved, so should the city. If you have any suggestions, (you mention them, but I don’t really see any) let me know. I tend to holler at those who are being foolish, and occasionally straighten someone out, but not often.