Our View: Auburn bike law splits Editorial Board
by Editorial Board
Oct 13, 2011 | 1665 views | 0 0 comments | 12 12 recommendations | email to a friend | print
The recently passed bike ordinance split the Editorial Board nearly down the middle.

Half of us felt the ordinance was unnecessary—one extra ticketable offense on the books. The other half felt the law was necessary to make people aware of the need for caution around cyclists on Auburn’s roads.

Of those that felt the bike law was unnecessary, some were already annoyed by bikes. They didn’t understand why we needed another law that puts more obligation on the automobile and not the cyclist.

They felt since many cyclists choose to ride on the sidewalks, a ticketable offense, that this law is missing the real problem in Auburn. Police should start getting cyclists off of the sidewalks and back onto the roads. Once that is done, a law of this sort would make more sense.

A concern with passing the law was that vehicles turning right paid no attention to a cyclist that may be nearby.

Cyclists must abide by all the same laws as motorists, and braking for a vehicle making a right turn is just as obligatory as when driving an automobile.

They argued that cyclists should be just as aware of the vehicles on the road as the drivers are of them. Riding in a motorist’s blind spot is even more dangerous than a two or one-foot gap when being passed.

Others on the board felt that the law was unenforceable, as was mentioned in the article. How would an officer go about judging the gap between bike and automobile? How heavy of a fine would it be?

It seems that the offense would be applied only after a separate offense occurred or a cyclist was struck. In that case, the separate fine is unnecessary.

They also argued that it’s not up to the government to legislate courtesy. A one-foot gap leaves the cyclist just as unharmed as a three-foot gap, and as such, the City Council is forbidding perfectly legal rudeness.

Alabama has a similar law on the books, and the group argued that instead of adding a new law to the Auburn books, why not just enforce Alabama’s law?

Several members of the group are regular riders of bikes, either to and from school or around town, and said they’ve never had a problem with drivers passing too close. If possible, they said, motorists would often change lanes before passing a cyclist.

Those supporting the law argued that there is no other effective way of increasing awareness of cyclists on the roads. They said any law which makes roadways safer is a law worth having.

They also argued that despite concerns about enforcement, an officer would be able to judge whether a motorist passed with a one-foot or three-foot gap, and that this fact is the essence of the law—it’s not about strict accuracy, but about a reasonable and safe distance between a motorist and a cyclist.

Not all roads in Auburn have bike lanes, and many of the streets downtown are narrow. They said forcing motorists to give a reasonable berth to cyclists would reduce collisions with other motorists and cyclists.

They argued this law is preferrable to the extensive construction and high cost that comes with fitting more roads with bike lanes.

Then there’s the numerous states and cities with similar laws. They argued that cyclist-awareness laws have worked well in other areas and would reduce motorist-cyclist collisions in Auburn.

There’s also the fact that the number of cyclists in Auburn has increased recently. More students are leaving their cars at home and using their bikes to get around.

With this recent uptick in bike usage, it’s important to make sure the incidence of accidents doesn’t increase, and they felt this law was a step towards that goal.
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