Letter to the Editor

Bicyclist safety

Saturday, July 20, 2013

Dear Editor:

My name is Frank Briscoe aka "Old Guy on a Bicycle."

In addition to being an avid bicyclist riding the roads in the area I'm longtime resident. Last Friday evening at or near 8:15 I was riding southbound on Highway 43, it was a bright evening with no traffic heading north and no road obstructions whatsoever.

A local commercial van doing at least 60 mph passed me going southbound, missing me by mere inches. Actually, the very closest I've ever come to being run down by a motor vehicle. Had I panicked or made the slightest wobble I would be a grease spot on the highway now.

In my opinion, the driver of this vehicle either wanted to see how close he/she could come to me without actually hitting me or possibly was being an inattentive driver. The latter is most likely the situation, as I stopped in to visit the store which owned the van on Monday and learned that this particular driver has already had a couple of incidents while driving due to her texting while driving.

That's crazy! I'm sure this gal, or most anyone for that matter, would not want to know they took another person's life. Not too mention, it would be very likely they would be convicted of manslaughter or possibly second degree murder.

Nine years ago I had a similar incident occur while riding on Highway 43, which I detailed in the following excerpt from a letter to the editor I wrote then.

I ride mostly on paved county, state and/or U.S. roads. One particularly favorite road is Highway. 43.

The section between Nevada and Highway 160 was recently repaved -- all except the shoulder. It was discouraging the highway department didn't pave the shoulder all the way to 160 and even worse to discover the road construction company left the 10 miles of existing paved shoulder in a mess with excess asphalt, added to the already large amount of broken glass, tire tread debris, road kill, etc. Basically it has rendered the shoulder unsafe for bicycling and leaves me no choice but to ride on the roadway.

On a road like this, I ride in the right tire thread track and I ride in the same direction as traffic. Over-all, drivers of cars and trucks respect my right to ride on the roadway.

However, one particular motorist has taken offense to my riding in the roadway. He has driven by me in excess of the legal speed limit several times, coming ever closer, so close in fact on one occasion I'm sure his rear view mirror grazed my left arm. On other occasions he would speed up and lay on his horn just before passing me, quite an unnerving experience for a rider.

Never once has there ever been traffic coming from the opposite direction which would have kept him from moving over and passing me in a safe manner. There was no need or explanation for his actions.

We're a small community, and it wasn't hard to discover who the owner of the vehicle was. I was amazed to learn the driver is someone I've known for over 30 years and consider a friend.

The next time I saw him in a local store, I walked up said "Hi" and then asked, "Now tell me what is it you have against bicyclist?" His answer shocked me, "I'd like to KILL all of them!"

I asked, "Why?"

His reply: "Because they ride in the roadway. Why don't they ride on the shoulder not on the road where I drive?"

I answered this statement first by explaining the horrible condition of the shoulder and second -- and more important -- explaining that bicyclists have the same rights as any other vehicle on the road.

Then I added, "By the way, the bicyclist you have been recklessly passing is me."

My friend's face turned red and he immediately began apologizing for himself and said he would never do that to me again.

"Never do that to me again?"

Obviously when I'm in my bike riding attire he is unable to recognize me but that's not the important point. He should not think it is his exclusive right to the road over bicyclists.

My friend was so embarrassed, he followed me around the store and apologized two more times before leaving. The third time he apologized, I was visiting with another friend.

After the first friend left my second friend asked, "What was that all about?" When I told him what had happened, my second friend was shocked at the other guy's actions, too. But then added he could understand the guy's actions as he didn't like bicyclist riding on the road either.

That's when I realized folks need to know Missouri statute 304.678, Overtake bicycles at a safe distance:

The operator of a motor vehicle overtaking a bicycle proceeding in the same direction on the roadway, as defined in section 300.010, RSMo, shall leave a safe distance, when passing the bicycle, and shall maintain clearance until safely past the overtaken bicycle.

A bicyclist is NOT some alien, bizarre, and unknown person -- a stranger or inhuman to whom it is OK to do the sort of things that a person would NEVER do to someone they know.

A bicyclist is most likely your neighbor, maybe a friend, a co-worker, a relative -- and most definitely another human being. Millions of Missourians bicycle regularly, and that means that everyone knows and loves someone who bicycles.

Every time you see a bicyclist on the road, could you imagine it is someone you know on the bicycle -- and then slow down and give that person enough room, just as you would for a person you do know and love?

Frank Briscoe