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September 19, 2019

Almost Run Down by a Bicyclist

Hayden Duke

My spirit and body were almost extinguished by a bicycle for the second time in my life a few days ago. I was walking my dogs Downtown – in a very law abiding manner – and we waited patiently at a stop light.


Once the light switched and we had the right-of-way, we went ahead only to be nearly side swiped by a man on a bicycle. He ran his red light and went through the intersection with all the grace and poise of a Katyusha rocket.


He did not appear to be paying attention, or perhaps he didn’t feel that the rules of the road applied to him. I don’t for one second think that this man is representative of all bicyclists, but he is representative enough of a problem that I’ve seen – and others have experienced – that some bicyclists don’t always follow the rules. And, there is almost zero accountability when they don’t.


Don’t get me wrong, I have no problem with bicycles being in their lanes or riding properly on the road. I like it that we are encouraging alternate means of travel. This can only be a good thing.


But, I believe that after years of vehicular motorists being told to “Share the road” with bicycles that some riders, a small number to be sure, believe they are immune from the rules that the motoring public must follow. A few adults also seem to think that it’s okay to ride their bicycle on the sidewalks in Downtown Frederick even though signs and common sense expressly forbid it.


So, what if Frederick’s future Tour de France winner had hit me or any pedestrian that afternoon? How would I have described him to 9-1-1? “I was rammed by a bicyclist wearing a Conquistador-like helmet while ensconced in a sense of entitlement. There was a chain, possibly a bell, unable to determine if breaks were working as they were not used.”


This is also – in no way – an excuse for the many drivers who break the same rules, often with deadlier consequences. But, in a vast majority of cases, it is possible to identify the license plate or make/model of the vehicle involved in an accident.


What I am going to suggest now may lead to some pearl clutching. I believe in small government. But, I also believe that government has a role, at times more roles than perhaps I would like. I would argue that if bicycles will continue to share the road – and with increasing numbers – they should be licensed, or display some type of identification. Of course, this should only apply to those 18 and older.


You might point out that this is just more needless government and aren’t I against needless government? Yes, I am. I’m also against pedestrians and puppies getting mowed down by errant bicyclists.


The Maryland Motor Vehicle Administration (MVA) deems bicycles to be vehicles. And, other than bicycles being required to be equipped with a break or an audible device (not a siren or whistle, mind you) there are no safeguards in place to make sure that these bicycles are roadworthy or their owners accountable, other than the good sense and civic responsibility exemplified by the vast majority of bicycle owners.


So, after a good session of “Well, I never” to the above suggestion, let me make a better suggestion to that small minority of bicycle riders who don’t always obey the traffic laws, start doing so. We should all share the road and the rules should apply equally to all, or they should apply equally to none.


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