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Complaints about bicyclists

Written by Jon Schmitz on .

My story this week about the state's new steer-clear-of-bicyclists law produced an outpouring of comments, by email, phone and on the Post-Gazette's website. Many were from people complaining about bicyclists who disobey traffic laws, as if that should disqualify all cyclists from having a law that tries to prevent them from being maimed or killed.

Some perspective is in order. Let's consider the risks associated with aggressive driving, distracted driving and speeding. We'll call that the U.S. Steel Tower of safety risk. Now let's consider the hazards caused by bicyclists not minding traffic laws.

It's an anthill.

Who is put at risk when some pinhead pulls to within six inches of your rear bumper while going 65 mph on the highway? Him, you and everyone within close range. Who's at risk when a bicyclist flouts traffic laws? Typically, only the cyclist.

It's not hard to spot bicyclists failing to adhere to the letter of the law. I saw two today who ran red lights. Both times, they stopped, checked to see if there was any approaching traffic, then rode through the intersection. I call it jaywalking on a bike. Sure, it's wrong and they deserve to be cited if the cops see them do it. But it and the far majority of traffic infractions by bicyclists harm no one.

I'll point out here that I ride a bicycle from time to time, but almost never in traffic. It's not because I'm scared to death of being mowed down by a careless, lawbreaking bicyclist.

Bicyclists are getting from Point A to Point B without burning gasoline. They are doing their country, their fellow citizens and themselves a favor. The new law requires those passing a bicyclist to give them four feet of buffer space, which involves making a slight counterclockwise twist of the steering wheel followed by a slight clockwise twist. With today's modern power steering systems, the physical exertion involved is negligible -- less than it takes to type a comment complaining about a law that, if people had a lick of common sense, wouldn't be necessary.

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