From the New Orleans Times-Picayune, 08.18.08:
Taking it to the streetsReaders of this blog know I'm generally not effusive in sympathy for the plight of motorists. I can justify much bicyclist behavior that some motorists find objectionable, such as treating stop signs as yield signs (not entirely legal) and taking the traffic lane (entirely legal.) However, wrong way bicycling is just plain evil.
What was the bicyclist thinking? What I do know is this: Before he had even untangled himself from my side-view mirror, he was calling me names and screaming that I should have looked both ways...
Had he been traveling in the correct direction along St. Claude Avenue, I might have been moved by his argument. But he was traveling in the wrong direction, against traffic.
"Do you want to die?" he shouted at me...There was no time for me to express to him my disgust that childishness has remained with him so long after his teen years...
My impression is that today's motorists, myself included, are not sufficiently aware of the presence of bicycles or the rights of bicyclists. Ours has become such a car-driven society that it seems as if the average teenager either owns or has access to a car. It's possible that even the youngest drivers on the road haven't been on a bicycle in years.
These impressions are on a collision course with the fact that more people are turning to bicycling as the price of gasoline keeps increasing, along with the value we place on maintaining physical fitness.
Certainly motorists should be increasingly vigilant, because an accident involving an automobile and a bicycle can easily prove fatal to the bicyclist, while not apt to cause even serious injury to the driver. But what of the responsibilities of the bicyclists? (Read more.)
Bicycling against traffic is extremely dangerous to the miscreant rider, as motorists don't expect bicyclists coming the wrong way and make turns into the bike rider's path. But wrong way riding is also hazardous to other bicyclists. I work at the most cycling intensive university campus in the U.S., and the greatest danger I face comes from other bicycle riders (I won't call them "bicyclists", but rather young motorists temporarily bicycling for convenience.) UC Davis features an abundance of bicyclists riding without lights, failing to signal turns, and, of course, riding the wrong way.
And, wrong way bicycling absolutely infuriates motorists. They might not scream at bicyclists rolling through stop signs, since most motorists do this as well. But, as this column from New Orleans indicates, no cyclist behavior frosts motorists more than a bicyclist riding against traffic.
To be sure, much of the wrong way bicycling behavior occurs because of poor street design. For example, one way streets that don't facilitate bike travel to desired destinations. Or multi-lane roads with a long barrier divider, impeding bicycling in the desired direction. Better design of streets, Complete Streets, should be the goal of every community. Many cities have also found "sharrows" to be very effective at reducing the incidence of wrong way bicycling.
Wrong way bicycling is extremely dangerous and offensive. So don't. It ain't worth it.
Image: Web capture.
Visit: Wrong Way Cycling, Ken Kifer
Visit: Bicycling increases, so does injury rate, Bike Commute Tips Blog
Visit: Safe bicycling video from League of American Bicyclists, Bike Commute Tips Blog
Visit: Paul Dorn's Bike Commuting Tips Site