Sunday, May 10, 2009

In Texas Common Courtesy Has To Be Legislated

I have a mountain bike in my garage. I used to ride it all the time when I lived in another place. But since taking up residence in Texas, there it has stayed in my garage.

A prop for spider webs.

The reason that it stays there is that it is common knowledge around here that bicyclists are not tolerated in Texas. In Texas it is sport to see how close you can come to a bicyclist out on a country road without actually hitting him or her.

And God help you if you are on your bike in a place that is exactly the same spot that a Texas driver wants to occupy. A place like a McDonald’s driveway that you are approaching and someone coming up from behind you decides it is not OK to wait for you to pass the driveway before turning in.

So what do you suppose is the answer? A unit on social courtesy in high school? No, they would just figure out a way to get out of that class. No, in Texas, when the public doesn’t follow what is viewed as common courtesy in the other 49 states and 183 countries of the world, you legislate it.

You make a law saying it’s bad to come within 3 feet of a bicyclist while you are both on the same road. And you make the law say that you can’t execute that “right hook” anymore.

It’s called the “Safe Passing Act,” it is SB 488, and it just passed in the senate with only 5 no votes (every one of them from Republicans). It makes it unlawful to be discourteous. And if you are discourteous enough so as to cause bodily injury, that’s a Class B misdemeanor.

So do I think this will do any good? Do I think Texans will find themselves more courteous to the biking public? Doubtful. All you need to do in order to come to this conclusion is read the comments that appear at the bottom of the article published at the Houston Chronicle’s website.

They speak volumes.

OK, here are a few just to give you a flavor:

“Another ridiculous and totally unnecessary law. Bicycles have no place on our roads.”

“I’m sorry, but bicyclist don’t pay road taxes and thus they don’t have the right to even ride the bike on the road.”

“Some of these bike guys take up 3/4 of the road going ten miles an hour and refuse to move over and let you drive by. After several blocks of this you want to run them over!”

“Time to put the new grille guards on.”


ChipSeal said...

I am car-free and I get around everywhere on a bicycle.

Texas is perfect for cycling. I rarely have any issue with motorists. Certainly less conflicts than motorists have with other motorists. I especially like all the nine to twelve foot bike lanes that are everywhere I ride. (Most folks around here call them the traffic lane. Note Sec. 551.103(a)(4)(A)(B) on how to operate a bicycle on a travel lane that is 14 feet wide or less.)

This bill is way wrong-headed. Every prohibition in it is already on the books. It is already against the law to pass in an unsafe manner. It is already the law to yield to oncoming traffic. It is already against the law to attack another person and open your door into traffic. Just enforce current law. This bill is just a make-work exercise in futility. (If current law is not being enforced, how will more laws help if they are similarly un-enforced?)

What bicyclists need is better advocates in Austin.

Tailwinds, ChipSeal

Anonymous said...

Just want to offer this person the right of goin' back where you came from....don't like it here, then return and nobody here will miss you.

Hal said...

Believe me, I would love to take you up on your offer. You have no idea. . .

Rock. Me. Hard place.

I make up for it by having in this place an infinite source of things for me to write about.