Saturday, November 15, 2014

NaBloPoMo, 15 Nov 2014 edition - Aliquippa speech, final draft

[N.B.: See the earlier version of this speech, posted five days ago. Thanks to V.B. for several constructive comments, as well as input from a few others privately and through social media. I plan to speak the following at the memorial ride and placement of the ghost bike. I believe a copy of this will also be forwarded to the press.]

Taylor Banks was a frequent, strong, experienced cyclist riding a road he knew well, and obeying the rules. Every cyclist 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.

Taylor was killed going to his mother’s house after work. In July 2013, Emily Jankart was killed on Route 51 at the Sewickley Bridge, returning home after work. Two deaths, two years, one road, one reason for travel. That is unacceptable. So why is it unsafe to use a bike to get back and forth to work on this road?

Let's be clear. Cyclists do have the right to be on the road and to use the travel lane. Many people, drivers and cyclists alike, 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 drivers killing cyclists?

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 Pennsylvania Bike Route "A". But if the 55 mph 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, education. It would really help if everyone knew and followed the rules. Mr. Banks was following the rules.

The roads are there for public use, and that includes everyone, including Taylor and other cyclists. If cyclists are indeed supposed to be able to bike along here, then modify the road, the speed limits, the signage, make the public aware of any changes, and patrol it, so that we safely can.

"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. If you are on a two-lane road, Section 3301a6 says you may legally cross a double yellow line to pass a cyclist, if you can see it's safe to do so.

The crux of the matter is this: When you come up behind a cyclist, either change lanes and pass, or patiently wait, same as you would behind a tractor or backhoe, until you can pass. Getting there safely is more important than getting there quickly, regardless of your mode of travel.

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, any time, is going to be hard. But we can start by obeying the speed limit and knowing what the law says.

In closing, let us remember the wise words of Mary Harris Jones, better known as "Mother Jones": "Pray for the dead, and fight like hell for the living."

May we all live long, prosperous lives, and ride our bikes in peace.


  1. What I plan to say in front of several dozen people on Sunday, 16 Nov, at the placement of the ghost bike for Taylor Banks.

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