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Op-ed: Motorists are still a bigger danger than cyclists

In his July 30 op-ed, “Is bicycling the new rude?,” Peter Rusch points out transgressions of some cyclists near Brand Park, and concludes “responsible cyclists”…are far outnumbered by … spandex laden daredevils.” I challenge the quantification and struggle to find the relevance of spandex.

One would have little problem compiling such a list of transgressions committed daily by automobile drivers simply by observing any random Glendale intersection, but the current environment focuses its ire on a few rogue cyclists to paint an entire community.

I assume Rusch drives, and I doubt he could honestly state he’s never disobeyed the speed limit, failed to come to a complete stop at a stop sign, or turned or changed lanes without first signaling. Statistically speaking (cdc.gov), there is a 69% chance Rusch (or any driver ages 18-64) has been on the phone while driving, and a 31% chance Rusch has texted while driving. Drivers are by far a bigger danger to any “lady and her child who just stepped off the curb.” Especially in Glendale.

Cyclists do violate the vehicle code, as do motorists. Younger cyclists are probably more apt to do so, just as younger motorists are. The difference is the cyclist isn’t piloting a ton of steel. Cyclists have a hard enough time navigating streets without people contributing to the erroneous belief that cyclists as a group are less apt to follow the laws than drivers of automobiles. If you have the data to support that premise, let’s see it.

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Comments on cycling stories and Rusch’s op-ed itself (a nonexistent “responsibility” to “ride single file on a busy or narrow street”) reveals that there is plenty of ignorance to go around with respect to what the vehicle code actually says about the cyclists and motorists. Interesting aside, the irate driver in Bert Ring’s recent comic could be liable to Elmira Gulch for $1,000 plus attorney’s fees under Los Angeles’ Bike Harassment Ordinance if the actions depicted were to take place in the city of Los Angeles.

I’ve been commuting from Glendale to Los Angeles for several years almost daily. Every near accident I’ve had with a car has been because of one of three reasons: (1) the driver of the car fails to signal a right turn or look before merging into me, (2) the driver of the car fails to properly yield when making a left turn (i.e. without yielding to me when I had the right-of-way coming from the opposite direction), and (3) a driver overtakes me way too close, intentionally or obliviously. We recently learned of another death just yesterday in the broad daylight of Downtown Los Angeles which appears to fall under category 3.

What would be more helpful would be an article or series discussing the actual vehicle code (Vehicle Code Sections 21200-21212) with respect to bicycles using the roads. Bikes aren’t going away, and misinformation, impatience and inattention on the part of drivers are not making it safer.

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BRUCE GRAHAM is a Glendale resident. He can be reached via email at bruce.graham@fticonsulting.com.


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