Tell Mr. Roadshow: Bikes belong!

from Cyclelicious

In Thursday’s Mercury News, the Mr. Roadshow columnist supports a reader who wants to “restrict bicycles to roads specifically designed with bike lanes” and require helmet use for all riders, because “bicycles and cars don’t mix.”

11/14 UPDATE:
Mr. Roadshow runs a response column…but still pretends like bikes and cars share equal responsibility in preventing collisions.  Victim-blaming’s never out of style, apparently.

Roadshow: The bicycling debate revisited

Why harp on helmet laws when all the research shows the best way to increase safety is to put MORE bikes on the street, helmet or not?

If you, like I, believe that bicycles belong on ALL streets and that the danger on roads comes from mismanaged automobile traffic, not cyclists, please write to Mr. Roadshow to express your opinion!

Here are potential talking points (tweak to fit your own style):

  • California’s recent “Complete Streets” REQUIRES all government agencies to plan roads for bicycles, pedestrians, transit users, as well as automobiles.
  • Cars weigh thousands of pounds.  Bikes weigh hundreds.  How again are bikes causing dangerous collisions?  Simple physics say the cars are the dangerous element of this equation.
  • Cyclists do not kill themselves frequently in solo-cyclist collisions, but people ask us to wear helmets.  Cars crash into each other, into trees, into poles, into cyclists and pedestrians, and they still crash when nothing else is around!  Why are we not addressing the real source of danger?
  • We have destroyed our cities with suburban sprawl and expressways.  When will we realize that it’s time to support other modes of transportation and move away from car-based infrastructure?

Keep in mind that most readers of the Mr. Roadshow column are likely motorists, and the columnist himself spends every day driving.  A sample letter sent by one Bike Party rider and the original article are below.

Dear Mr. Roadshow –

Your support of Mr. Mazzei’s suggestion that bikes do not belong on our roadways without further legislation is disturbing and irresponsible.  When two vehicles meet on a roadway and one weighs several thousand pounds and the other a few hundred, it is clear which operator bears the primary responsibility for keeping the roads safe.  Quite simply, a car is a lethal weapon, and a bike is not.  If we want safer roads, we should increase regulation on motorists, not cyclists:  it’s just common sense.  The presumption that cars own the roads must end:  pedestrians, cyclists, transit users, and more all share these spaces.  Cars’ majority is no excuse for murderous behavior.  Law such as the recent Complete Streets legislation clearly show the direction our state is headed:  more bikes, less cars.  When will Mr. Roadshow learn?  Bikes belong!

Nick Laskowski
San José

Original post:

Roadshow: A father’s plea: Bikes and cars don’t mix

Posted: 11/10/2010 06:23:17 PM PST
Updated: 11/10/2010 06:23:18 PM PST

Q: I just read another article about a bicycle rider who was recently killed on Alpine Road near Interstate 280. We lost our daughter about five years ago in a similar accident on Woodside Road near 280. When are people going to realize bicycles and cars don’t mix? I have had horrible days driving along Highway 1 in Marin County where the bikers are so thick that they force cars to pass on the opposite side of the road — in many cases on blind curves. We need some strict laws that restrict bicycles to roads specifically designed with bike lanes. How about a registration and helmet requirement to ride on streets and highways? Anything else should be illegal and subject to a citation. How many more people need to die before something is done?

Rob Mazzei

Redwood City

A: Rob’s daughter, Michelle, was a fourth-grade teacher at a Menlo Park school who was stuck by a car that drifted into the bike lane and killed her. The experienced cyclist was wearing a helmet.

The chances that bicyclists will be banned from certain roads is unlikely, but Rob’s concerns are legitimate. And here is where we can start: making helmets mandatory for all bicyclists, not just those under 18. My son attends the University of California-Davis, and on a recent visit there I was struck by how many students do not wear helmets.

A helmet did not save Michelle nor Lauren

Ward, the mother of two who was killed last week in a crash involving a big-rig driver near the freeway ramp from Woodside Road, where there is no bike lane. Officials from the state and San Mateo County, along with bicycling advocates, will look at possible safety improvements.Q: I was riding on Foothill Expressway, which has a wide shoulder used by bicyclists, when I rode up to a group of riders which filled that lane for quite a distance. I checked my mirror and no cars were coming, so I moved out to the left and began to pass the group. Before I could get around them a car came up behind me and really laid on the horn. As you can guess, it scared the heck out of me and many of the other riders. I did not pull out in front of this driver. My question: Was it legal for me to pass on the left side, in the car traffic lane, in this situation?

Leslie Clapp

Mountain View

A: Tough call. Los Altos police say if you had the opportunity to pass without interrupting traffic, your move was OK. If not, you were making an unsafe lane change. But drivers should avoid honking, as a blast of the horn can cause bicyclists to make evasive and potentially dangerous moves.

Q: In late July I was riding my bicycle in Santa Cruz with a buddy. We rolled through a stop sign without stopping completely and were pulled over and given tickets. OK, we did it. That’s not the problem. My problem is that the city, county or whoever processes the tickets seems to have lost mine. I’ve checked online repeatedly, and waited through the line at the county building three times, only to be told to check back in another month. My buddy, on the other hand, was able to pay his a month ago. Going to the county and waiting in line monthly is a pain. I just want to pay my fine and be done with it but until they find my ticket that can’t happen. So is there a time limit for them to find the ticket? Do I have to keep going back monthly until I die of old age? I don’t want to blow it off and then someday get pulled over for a burned-out taillight and taken to jail for failure-to-appear! Last week I was able to get a live person in the traffic ticket office on the phone and she told me that I need to check back once a month until a year has passed. At that time the ticket becomes too old and I’m off the hook for good. Does this sound like fact?

H. F.

Santa Cruz

A: It’s fact. Matt-the-Attorney says a citation in California is valid for one year: “Basically, it is a one-year statute of limitations. Unfortunately, your reader will have to check back periodically to see if his ticket has been processed. Also, neither the court nor the agency is required to notify your reader if the ticket has been processed. Courts typically send out courtesy notices, but they are not required and the burden is on your reader to check with the court to see if the citation has been processed.”

Contact Gary Richards at or 408-920-5335.