Monday, November 10, 2014

NaBloPoMo, 10 Nov 2014 edition - Aliquippa speech, first draft

[N.B.: On November 1, a 23-year-old cyclist, Taylor Lee Banks, was killed on PA Route 51, riding from his job in Aliquippa to his mother's home in Rochester. A Ride of Silence and placement of a ghost bike in his memory is planned for November 16. I plan to be there, prepared to stand in front of any media present, and speak the following.]

As far as we know, Taylor Banks was an experienced cyclist riding a road he knew well, and obeying the rules. Every cyclist you see here today is also an experienced cyclist who obeys the rules, so just as we are shocked by his death, we are also concerned for our own safety. But mark my words, this was not an accident. This was the result of a lot of things gone wrong, both at the time he was hit, and long before.

We have created a world in which the only acceptable method for getting from Point A to Point B is in a car. And that's wrong. Why is it unsafe to use a bike to get back and forth to work?

Let's be clear. Cyclists do have the right to be on the road. When we are on the road, we also have the right to use the travel lane. Many people do not know that, and a few do not accept it, but it's right there in Section 3301c1 of state traffic law. So how do we prevent another cyclist's death?

One, we can start by enforcing speed limits. If people speed, that's a police issue. Cite motorists, show up in court, and prosecute.

Two, this stretch of PA51 is a posted Pennsylvania Bike Route. But if the posted speed limit is too high to accommodate bikes safely, then that's a policy issue for PennDOT to resolve with the active participation of the cycling community.

Three, the roads themselves are designed to kill, by inviting people to drive too fast to accommodate any users other than cars and large-engined motorcycles. Why do we do that? We shouldn't need speed traps to force people to obey the law, the roads should be designed to enforce themselves with an appropriate speed.

The roads are there for public use, and that use is supposed to include everyone, including cyclists. If cyclists are indeed supposed to be able to bike along here, then modify the road, the speed limits, the signage, and make the public aware of that fact, so that we safely can.

Taxpayers might object to any money being spent for special accommodations for cyclists. Fine, we do not need special accommodations. We do, however, require normal accommodations, which means you have to accept what the law already says in Section 3301c1, that we will be on the road, and we will be in the traffic lane, and that since it's a four-lane road, we will be in the center of that right lane. It should be possible for 18-wheelers and cyclists to share the same road.

Share the road does not mean share the lane. If there is a cyclist in the right lane, get in the left lane and pass us. When you pass a cyclist, you have to give him four feet of space. Why? Because, if for no other reason, the gust of wind accompanying your moving car or truck is enough to push a cyclist off course, into a curb or off the road altogether. If you are on a two-lane road, Section 3301a6 lets you legally cross a double yellow to pass a cyclist, if you can see it's otherwise safe to do so. So when you come up behind a cyclist, either change lanes and pass, or patiently get in line, same as you would behind a tractor or backhoe, until you can. We will control that lane until we decide it is safe to let you pass, and then and only then we will pull to the right, as Section 3301c1 allows.

Getting everyone to realize that bicycles really do have the right to use the road at all, any road, and to use the full lane, is going to be hard. But we can start by obeying the speed limit and knowing what the law says.


  1. What I plan to say in front of any TV camera next Sunday. Constructive criticism welcome.

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