The following is an extract of my OutSPOKEn column in the current edition of Southern California Bicyclist magazine which is available for free at many So Cal bike shops.
This column will mark the beginning of its sixth year and comes out at the start of 2014 so in keeping with tradition I would like to share some of my bicycling wishes for the New Year. I would love to hear from you with your ideas. I always get a lot of feedback whenever I write a column that features Lance Armstrong and doping scandals and much less when I cover something else. Cycling journalists know that this topic is a guaranteed to attract readers so that is why we see so many articles on the subject some of which do not really say anything new. My first wish is a desire that in 2014 we start down a path so we hear a whole lot less about Lance and pro racing’s past, and more about the future. I’ll elaborate about this later in this piece. My second wish is that I hear from my readers so I know you are out there. I hear from some of you; some send kudos, others criticism and still other ideas for future columns. I welcome all of that and provide my email at the end for you to easily contact me.
Wishes for the road
My last column was about the then newly passed California 3-Foot Safety Act which mandates (sort of) that drivers allow a 3 foot buffer when passing cyclists. That space had for years been the recommended passing distance in the California Driver’s Handbook, but the guidance was not mandatory and thus not enforceable. The new law goes into effect September 16, 2014. As I wrote last time the 3-Foot Safety Act, was watered down to avoid a third veto and is not as crisp as I would like. Nevertheless, the law is important because passing-from-behind collisions accounts for about 40% of all adult bicyclist fatalities, the leading cause of such deaths. So anything that reduces this statistic is welcome. There was a short flurry of publicity about the new law when it was first past. There were public service announcements about bike safety and I see more sharrows-shared lane markings than I used to. In 2014 as the law goes into effect I wish that there will be an education campaign so that the law will have an impact and so that there are fewer accidents. Without the publicity the law will only be important after a cyclist has been hit, and bike lawyers such as me cite the law as we litigate liability. In my last column I suggested that riders had to as a practical matter “earn” the respect that the new law allows. If you missed and want to read that column, send me a request by email and I will scan a copy and send it to you.
Over the past several years I have heard about too many accidents on the road. I too have had my close calls. I often get multiple emails from several friends informing me about cycling fatalities in Southern California or about riders who have been hit and injured. I recently started taking bike injury cases after practicing law in other areas for over 35 years. At the risk of negatively impacting my new bike injury law practice, I would love to see this road cycling carnage decrease dramatically. Related to that I wish someone would come up with an effective solution to distracted driving and particularly to cell phone use and texting while driving. We all know the present penalties are ineffective. It would be nice if car manufacturers focused on this issue instead of developing new distracting features to cram into their vehicles.
I also wish that the perceived trend of increased hostility between drivers and cyclists dramatically changed direction. Perhaps a public dialogue related to the 2014 effective date of the 3-Foot Safety Act will help. Perhaps some publicized prosecutions of aggressive drivers for assault with a deadly weapon (their cars) might aid as well. In the meantime ride defensively, ride predictably and ride visibly using lights all the time and brightly colored clothing. Don’t buy black and grey cycling jerseys and relegate the ones you already own for use on your trainer or for the gym.
As always, let me know what you think and send me your ideas to pass along in future columns. Email me at EdR4Cycling@sbcglobal.net or at my law practice at EdR4Law@sbcglobal.net. Until next time have fun and be safe out there. And if you have not subscribed to my portion of this site please do so. It costs nothing and you will receive an email whenever I post a new article.