Austin Cycling News

Cycling in Austin

Bud Kennedy thinks that the best way to keep cyclists safe is to keep them further to the right.

By • Aug 3rd, 2008 • Category: Rants

– This guy starts off with a good headline:

Kennedy: Bicycle riding in Texas is more dangerous than it has to be

– Note the email address should you wish to contact him, I am going to email him the link to this article.

The rolling hills of Parker County hold beauty, and danger.

An Aledo cyclist was killed last month riding at sunset on a highway access road in Willow Park.

He crested a beautiful hill. But the pickup driver coming over the hill behind him could see nothing but the glare of that sun.

– But then it quickly deteriorates. Driving with limited visibility is not an excuse in causing a traffic fatality. Just like the incident on 290 we have the sun in the eyes of a driver and the driver refuses to slow down for conditions. This is ILLEGAL. DO NOT DRIVE WITH THE SUN IN YOUR EYES, YOU WILL KILL SOMEONE. This is why riding a bicycle is more dangerous than it has to be, because motorists drive irresponsibly.

More people move every day to Parker County. More industry brings more trucks.

– If they drive with the sun in their eyes I expect them to be TICKETED.

And at the same time, more cyclists come from both the city and suburbs to ride those hills.

– I suspect that the cyclists were there first.

“It’s a great place to ride for the beautiful scenery,” said Brent Baker, a college official and director of the Peach Pedal, the popular annual Parker County Peach Festival ride. “But it’s also getting more dangerous. The cars and trucks are coming fast.”

— And when the sun is in your eyes and you are driving fast, you should be guilty of criminal endangerment. Or if you simply are distracted.

In a year when more Texans than ever are parking their Suburbans and buying bicycles for commuting or errands, more cyclists are jockeying with drivers for room on the road.

Texas law says that cyclists must stick to the right-hand curb or edge, except in a few extreme circumstances.

— This is just a plain out and out lie. The law says:

(a) Except as provided by Subsection (b), a person operating a bicycle on a roadway who is moving slower than the other traffic on the roadway shall ride as near as practicable to the right curb or edge of the roadway, unless:
(1) the person is passing another vehicle moving in the same direction;
(2) the person is preparing to turn left at an intersection or onto a private road or driveway; or
(3) a condition on or of the roadway, including a fixed or moving object, parked or moving vehicle, pedestrian, animal, or surface hazard prevents the person from safely riding next to the right curb or edge of the roadway.
(4) the person is operating a bicycle in an outside lane that is:
(A) less than 14 feet in width and does not have a designated bicycle lane adjacent to that lane; or (B) too narrow for a bicycle and a motor vehicle to safely travel side by side.

(b) A person operating a bicycle on a one-way roadway with two or more marked traffic lanes may ride as near as practicable to the left curb or edge of the roadway.
(c) Persons operating bicycles on a roadway may ride two abreast. Persons riding two abreast on a laned roadway shall ride in a single lane. Persons riding two abreast may not impede the normal and reasonable flow of traffic on the roadway. Persons may not ride more than two abreast unless they are riding on a part of a roadway set aside for the exclusive operation of bicycles.

We will never know why, but according to a state trooper’s report, cyclist Thomas Hollrith, 46, of Aledo, was riding in the middle of a lane on July 24 when he was struck by a pickup belonging to an energy company.

– PERHAPS the lane was too narrow to SHARE with the TRUCK, which legally entitled the cyclist to ride where he was, and made the TRUCK the party at fault. Let us not forget that the truck was driving too fast for conditions (limited visibility).

John Hinton, 44, is a bank president in Weatherford. He rides 30 miles several days a week.

“It’s easy to get lulled to sleep out here and lose track of safety,” he said. “If you were in Fort Worth, on Bryant Irvin Road or University Drive, you’d be looking around every second. Out here, you might not be as careful.”

– It sounds a little like Bud is blaming the cyclist for not paying attention to a reckless driver driving a truck too fast for conditions. Or perhaps he is justifying the truck driver being lulled to sleep while operating dangerous equipment on the roadway, I am not sure.

He and his Weatherford friends stay off freeway access roads and even busy highways such as Farm Road 5, he said. They ride only the sleepy back roads.

“Where we ride, everybody waves,” he said. “They’re glad to see us.”

That’s definitely not the highway.

A prominent Austin cycling coach was killed June 28 riding on U.S. 290 in the Hill Country.

The story is similar: The driver said she couldn’t see him for the glare.

— Exactly my point. When you CAN’T SEE THE ROAD, SLOW DOWN. I do not understand why people would argue this point.

Austin’s thousands of cyclists painted a white “ghost bike” and rallied for bicycle awareness and improved highway safety.

Drivers quoted in Austin responded angrily that many cyclists aren’t polite and don’t obey laws.

– Cyclists responded in that forum that motorists aren’t polite and do not obey laws.

Jerry Trimble, 52, of Grapevine is the president of the 600-member Fort Worth Bicycling Association, one of the oldest bicycle clubs in North Texas.

He said he always urges cyclists to make room for vehicles.

– Good for him, I always make room when it is SAFE, not just because a MOTOR vehicle (oops you left that part out didn’t you Bud, I thought bicycles were legally defined as vehicles) wants the space I am occupying. And if I am going the speed limit (Which is not relevant to that case, but I wanted to point it out), I will keep my lane.

“Don’t ever make anybody mad when you’re on a bicycle,” he said, “because they’re just going to take it out on the next bicycle.”

– Ok I am with you if you mean do not intentionally piss of a driver, because that driver may have issues that cause him to act out some prejudiced hostility towards another driver, but if you are saying to go out of my way to keep all motorists happy? That is impossible, and just saying it is offensive. It almost sounds like you are excusing a motorist “taking out his anger” on a complete stranger because someone that looked like that stranger pissed him off. Something slightly reminiscent of racism or bigotry. Should we go out of our way to please people like this so they do not burn us in effigy run us over?

But he also said cyclists feel like “public enemy No. 1.”

“I’ve had people tell me that we don’t have any right to be on the road, that we belong on the sidewalk,’ he said.

(Texas law puts bicycles “as near as practicable” to the right-hand curb on a two-way street, or either curb on a one-way street, except on a very narrow road or when dodging a hazard or turning left. A second cyclist — no more — can ride alongside.)

– Next time Bud, quote the law and don’t make it up as you go. The law says – Unless several things: Unless the cyclist is going the speed limit, unless the road is less than 14′ wide, unless there are hazards on the side of the road (including parked cars, let us not forget the door zone). If you want to know the law, I think the Texas Drivers handbook spells it out in clearer english.

Trimble complained about a double standard.

“You’ve got leaders out there saying, ‘Let’s go green,’ and ‘Let’s get everybody riding,’?” he said. “But they’re not doing anything about the drivers out there who are trying to run us off the road. Are we friends, or not? Do you want more bicycles, or not?”

– This is the most intelligent statement in the article, if only it was not for the blatant motor vehicle bias in the rest of the article.

The bicycle association’s Web bulletin board has been busy with comments about Hollrith’s death and bicycle safety. (Yes, he was wearing a helmet.)

– And if he had not been wearing a helmet this would be a “wear your helmet” article. The entirety of bicycle safety CANNOT be summed up in the choice of head gear.

On average, a cyclist is killed every week somewhere in Texas.

Cyclists wondered if the edge of the road at the wreck scene might have been freshly topped with sticky asphalt, or if it was too gravelly to ride. But law officers said the road was normal.

Trimble said the wreck will remind riders to keep right.

“I bet you see more people riding the edge,” he said. “I’m going to push for it.”

– Because the conclusion here is that motorists cannot be expected to operate their vehicles according to the law, so let’s make sure the cyclists stay out of the way. Yep, thats the answer. Just one more thing, what if it had been a small car that was legally slowing down for the limited visibility? What about a scooter? What about a motorcycle? Would the tone of this article have been the same?

Surely there’s room for everyone.

— In your world there is room for cyclists, as long as they keep an eye out for reckless drivers, like the truck driver who caused this tragedy (by driving too fast with limited visibility). Actually by the tone of this article, all cyclists should just get the hell out of the way of the important motor vehicles. I think I found the true title of your article, Bicycle riding in Texas is more dangerous than it has to be, because the stupid cyclists keep getting in the way of motorists. And cars are bigger, and might makes right.

Bud Kennedy’s column appears Sundays, Wednesdays and Fridays. 817-390-7538
Update:

I have corresponded back and forth with him, and so have others, some choice email responses In the comments:

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  1. [...] American taxpayers paid $3.4 billion last year to operate the Federal Government’s 642,233 motor vehicles. Transportation Secretary Mary Peters has two drivers. Their salaries totaled more than $128,000 last year. The driver for Health and Human Services Secretary Michael Leavitt earns about $90,000 a year. Austin Cycle News commentary on “Bicycle riding in Texas is more dangerous than it has to be“ [...]

  2. On Aug 7, 2008, at 11:17 AM, “Adriel Ickler” wrote:

    > Regarding the article by Bud Kennedy titled “Bicycle riding in Texas is more dangerous than it has to be” on August 3rd 2008.
    >
    > I would like to make a few comments, it appears that Bud is assigning blame to the cyclist for not keeping to the right, and even going so far as to say that the cyclist was legally required to be on the right edge of the roadway.
    >
    > The article clearly states “He crested a beautiful hill. But the pickup driver coming over the hill behind him could see nothing but the glare of that sun.”
    >
    > Now two concerns here, one you should slow down when climbing a hill because of reduced visibility. You should always drive in such a way that you can see ahead of you in order to prevent an accident. According to Mr. Kennedy the driver did not exercise this due care. In addition when the glare of the sun blinded him he should have slowed down. When your visibility drops to 0, your speed limit effectively drops to 0. This is covered under the Basic Speed rule which states that you should always drive a “safe and reasonable speed”, this supersedes any speed limit that may appear on the sign.
    >
    > Mr. Kennedy then paraphrases a traffic law, and did not reference the actual law so we cannot see if his interpretation is correct.
    >
    > “Texas law says that cyclists must stick to the right-hand curb or edge, except in a few extreme circumstances.”
    >
    > The official site for this law is found at:
    >
    > http://tlo2.tlc.state.tx.us/statutes/docs/TN/content/htm/tn.007.00.000551.00.htm
    >
    > When I read this code it seems to say that a cyclist is legally allowed to take an entire lane ANY time the roadway is less than 14′ or when the lane is too narrow to be SAFELY shared with a bicycle and a motor vehicle. This situation is not rare at all. In addition it says “as far as practicable” and does not mention anything about right hand edges or curbs.
    >
    > Note the word UNLESS,
    > § 551.103. OPERATION ON ROADWAY. (a) Except as
    > provided by Subsection (b), a person operating a bicycle on a
    > roadway who is moving slower than the other traffic on the roadway
    > shall ride as near as practicable to the right curb or edge of the
    > roadway, unless:
    >
    > Now note condition 4.
    > (4) the person is operating a bicycle in an outside
    > lane that is:
    > (A) less than 14 feet in width and does not have a
    > designated bicycle lane adjacent to that lane; or
    > (B) too narrow for a bicycle and a motor vehicle
    > to safely travel side by side.
    >
    > Now the next time you drive, measure the width of the roadways without bike lanes, if they are less than 14 feet a bicycle is legally allowed to take the whole lane.
    >
    > Now what if the lane is less than 14 feet and does have a bike lane? Let us look closely at B
    > (B) too narrow for a bicycle and a motor vehicle
    > to safely travel side by side.
    >
    > So even if there IS a bike lane, and the road is say 10 feet wide, which would not be safe for a bicycle and a 9? wide vehicle to pass, especially if you start factoring in items like a 3 foot minimum passing distance required for the safety of the bicycle operator. So in a lane less than the width of a bicycle 2?, plus the 3? passing distance, and a modest 1? from the curb and the width of a car (About 7?, so that brings us to about 13? wide), the cyclist is allowed to legally consume the whole lane. And note the wording, safely travel side by side, not “physically fit side by side”. So the intent is obvious that there should be enough room to safely pass.
    >
    > I encourage you to actually measure a few traffic lanes as I have, and start to get a feel for it. A large number of vehicle lanes are 10? wide with no bike lane, which clearly gives the cyclist the legal right to operate in the entire lane. And even if the bike lane were 12? wide with a bike lane, the cyclist may be within his legal rights operating in the full vehicle lane. 1? left of the curb, 2 foot wide for the bike, 3 feet from the cars, and a 7? wide car. (I get 13? in that case).
    > The reason this is important is that riding too close to the edge of the roadway all of the time causes more accidents than riding in the middle of the roadway when necessary. And if motorists feel that cyclists are legally required to operate in this unsafe manner, in addition to the risk any road user (motorist or cyclist) incurs while operating on the roadway, we add increased harassment of a legally operating cyclist.
    >
    > Please retract or correct your misquote of Texas Traffic law.
    >
    > Thank you.

    – Reply from Bud:

    Hi Adriel,

    Thanks for your note.

    The column is correct.

    The Willow Park wreck was on a wide road where cyclists are requured to ride at the “edge or curb.”

    Write again or anytime,

    –Bud

  3. I was referring to your statement that cyclists may only rarely take the lane, which I refuted in my argument, did you read my logic? I would expect more than just “the column is correct”.

    From my reading of the state law a cyclist is never required to ride on the curb or the edge of the roadway, but as far as is practicable to the right edge of the roadway unless the road is less than 14′ wide. If the lane is 14′ wide or wider, the cyclist would have no problem sharing the road with a 9′ wide car.

    From my research it appears this is the spot where Thomas Hollrith Jr. was killed. The westbound lane would be the top lane. It is hard to tell at that resolution what width the lane is, however it is a two lane one way access road. So any car should have been able to pass the cyclist if they had any visibility at all. Making this a visibility issue rather than a “as far to the right” issue. I do not believe this lane is 14′ wide, but I cannot prove or disprove it from the google maps image.

    http://maps.google.com/maps?f=q&hl=en&geocode=&q=willow+park,+tx&ie=UTF8&ll=32.743063,-97.660952&spn=0.002446,0.005686&t=h&z=18

  4. From Bud:

    Hi Adriel,

    I don’t choose the letters, but I think yours exceeds our limit.

    Your argument is something survivors might raise in a civil trial. But DPS tells me that is not the way they read lawmakers’ intent.

    –Bud

  5. From Me:

    So your local DPS contact informed you that cyclists are rarely allowed to make use of a full lane, even on a roadway with a lane less than 14? in width and with multiple vehicle lanes available for passing? Would it be possible to get the name and contact information of the individual who informed you of this?

    I cannot see how section 551.103 could be interpreted any other way than this:

    2. Bicyclists are required to ride as far right in the lane as possible only when the lane can be safely shared by a car and a bicycle, side by side.
    Even then, there are certain conditions that allow a bicyclist to take the full lane such as:
    a. The person is overtaking and passing another vehicle proceeding in the same direction.
    b. The person is preparing for a left turn at an intersection or onto a private road or driveway.
    c. There are unsafe conditions in the roadway such as fixed or moving objects, parked or moving vehicles, pedestrians, animals, potholes, or debris.
    d. The lane is of substandard width making it unsafe for a car and a bicycle to safely share the lane side by side. When this is the case, it is best for the cyclist to take the full lane whether riding single file or two abreast.
    3. Bicyclists are not restricted to the right lane of traffic. One-way, multi-laned streets are one example. Another instance is when the bicyclist is changing lanes to make a left turn. The bicyclist should follow the same path any other vehicle would take traveling the same direction.
    4. Motorists should merge with bicycle traffic when preparing for a right hand-turn. Avoid turning directly across the path of bicycle traffic.

    This is a direct quote (I added the bold parts) from the current Texas Drivers Handbook, which I believe is the reference the DPS should be taking its cues from.

    This is the link to the PDF that I copied this information from, note it comes from http://www.dmv.org

    http://www.dmv.org/loading-page.php?mainnav_id=61&stateid=43&state=Texas&section=Manuals&url=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.txdps.state.tx.us%2Fftp%2Fforms%2FDLhandbook.pdf

    Am I mistaken in any of this? The Texas Drivers handbook CLEARLY states in point d that when the lane is unsafe for a car and bicycle to safely share a lane side by side the cyclist SHOULD take the full lane.

  6. Me:
    Can you please give me the name of the person who told you this? I
    would like to investigate from my end.

    Thank you.
    Him:

    Adriel, it was a general summary from the DPS public information office.

    –Bud

    Me:
    Do you still have that summary? Could I look at it?

  7. Him:

    Hi Adriel,

    Please feel free to contact DPS.

    Apparently, troopers are taught that bicycles must keep right unless the lane is “substandard.”

    The law is conflicting. It says the lane must have room for a car and bicycle side-by-side. But then it gives a lane width.

    The question is whether the improved shoulder makes the lane “standard.” The law says bicycles must ride by the curb or edge, so maybe the lane width only applies when there is no curb or edge.

    This road involved not only two broad lanes but also two broad shoulders.

    Lawmakers did not intend for bicycles to take the lane when there is room for a car and a bicycle.

    I suggest asking DPS lawyers to clarify.

    –Bud


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