Friday, October 14, 2011

Bikers Beware

I truly need to do some research around the bike laws here in Colorado. In fact, I am sure some of you, my pals, out there know a good deal more of it than I do. I knew Jersey bike laws pretty intimately, but here.... is it different? Or are people just stupid?

Look, I'm a parent. I get that it feels safer to teach a child to ride a bike on a sidewalk, if it's available. You want to keep the kids active but away from cars on the street. It feels smarter to teach someone to ride towards oncoming traffic, so the biker can see what is coming towards him or her as opposed to having traffic sneak up from behind. I ride a bike too (albeit only in leap years between 3:15 and 4 pm on March 27th if it's a Saturday and the weather is nice, or something akin to such rarity). I know what feels safer to a biker. Thing is, when I was a kid, I was taught that, no matter what you feel is safer, you follow general traffic regulations. You ride with traffic, not against it. You don't ride bikes on sidewalks any more than you'd drive your car on one. Why? Well, because that was the law, but more importantly, if you do it any other way you are far more likely to either smack into a pedestrian or, if you are less lucky, get creamed by a Ford F150 (South Jersey).

Well, last night I almost creamed some fool teenager biking against traffic. I pulled out of a parking lot, down a side street and I approached a main thoroughfare through my neighborhood. The streets were empty. It was nearing 10pm. As I neared a stop sign, I saw a bicycler on the "wrong" side of the street. He carried a flashlight, and shined it right at me so I could see him. Okay. He was on the "wrong" side of the road, but I appreciated that small safety measure, even if I was temporarily blinded. He wasn't the problem. The problem was that his buddy, biking 10 yards behind him, rode without a flashlight, also on the "wrong" side of the road. If I had not paused long enough to watch the flashlight kid carry on a bit down the road, I might have smacked right into his darkly dressed pal. The boy had passed almost completely in front of my vehicle, about a foot from my bumper, before I even saw him. Riding in the dark on the "proper" side of the street would at least have allowed my headlights an opportunity to catch him. And I'm pretty sure if I smashed a kid the fault would fall to me, even if he was the one being a moron. I would win the physics game, but lose the legal one. Plus, I might feel a little bad destroying even a dumb kid. 

I think if this incident were isolated, I would simply mutter "dumb kid," and move on with my life instead of ranting here on my blog... but about 2 months ago, as I was walking my kids to school, my son was literally run over by a kid who was riding to school on his bike- on the sidewalk. My boy took the hit and rolled off of the curb into the street. I am grateful every day that a car was not coming at that time. Now, okay, the rider was a very young kid riding his bike. I could tell the young biker tried to stop his bike and simply could not. I accepted his apology and asked if he himself was okay (he must have only been 6 or 7). None of this makes it okay to me that this boy was riding a bike on the sidewalk nearing the school. A lot of people walk the sidewalks in this area. Bicycles are moving vehicles that can cause injury. My son recovered quickly, but it leaves me wondering... what is the law around things like this? Shouldn't we be teaching our kids to at least hop off of the bike and walk it on the sidewalks within a few blocks of the school? My boy recovered from his fall quickly, but he is still very haunted. He wants me to pick him up whenever he sees a bike on the sidewalk. Which is far too often.

So now I have a new research project. Time to know the Colorado law. It's a good thing for me to fully understand, truthfully. Maybe I won't feel so bad about screaming at people that they are reckless fools if I know the law is on my side. Mehh. I probably won't feel bad anyway.

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