Thursday, February 01, 2007

A misguided effort to regulate group riders

(Updated February 2)
A visible South Florida activist, Jim Smith, is mentioned today as backing a drive to break up the large groups of riders commonly seen on popular routes such as Crandon Boulevard. The report is from the South Florida Sun-Sentinel, and unless you read it carefully it incorrectly suggests, ever so subtly, that former bike racer Raphael Clemente also supports the idea.

The two men are probably right that clumps of 50 or more riders don't help the image of bicycling, and they certainly discomfit motorists. Sometimes a group ride will include hotshots who barrel through intersections in disregard of signs and signals, risking harm to others as well as themselves. Current traffic laws, of course, address that misbehavior and I believe give law enforcement suitable tools to bring reckless riding into check.

The danger I see in Smith's proposal, launched on behalf of his Palm Beach County organization, SAFE (Safety as Floridians Expect), is that he also wants to require that cyclists use bicycle paths wherever they exist. That would be a step backward -- both in safety and in encouraging bicycle transportation. Not all paths are good ones, which is why skillful riders often prefer a public road. Then there's the issue of crossing side streets and driveways, where riders are more vulnerable to collision on the path than they are on the main street.

Sorry, Mr. Smith, I believe your plan is a bad one. We just have to support enforcement of the present traffic laws -- which do, after all, fully apply to bicyclists -- and at the same time use peer pressure and public scorn to tamp down the cut-ups who give group riding a bad name.

(The photos are by Dan Burden, via the Pedestrian and Bicycle Information Center in Chapel Hill, N.C.)

1 comment:

Raphael Clemente said...

I don't know that I really support the idea of laws that will break up group rides. I'm much more inclined to ask riders to police themselves. And yes, Jim Smith is way off base on [trying to] mandate that riders must use a bike lane and has been told so many times by many people. He doesn't ride, never has, and does not understand the unintended consequences of his proposal.