Anti-Cyclist Bias?

I had a meeting today with a policy-maker, someone who wields considerable influence over municipal government. The kind of person a cyclist would be very glad to have in his corner.

In the course of discussing cycling-safety issues, a notoriously dangerous local intersection came up. It is an intersection of two very high-speed streets where the bike lane basically just ends, pretty much abandoning the cyclist when infrastructure is needed most. This leaves cyclists to make their own way through the intersection and, afterwards, to fight their way back over to the right of the road amidst high-speed traffic entering from the right from an uncontrolled “free right turn”. To do so, a cyclist must cross a solid white line separating the right lane from the “new” lane entering from the right.

Newport Beach cyclists who read this will be able to guess what several intersections I might be talking about, if not the actual one. Suffice it to say, it is one of several very dangerous intersections for cyclists which were engineered for high-speed motorists, without much thought at all for cyclists.

Anyway, the speaker — who is a road cyclist — presented the problem from the perspective of the windshield of a merging motorist passing through the uncontrolled right turn, and suggested the conflict presented itself by cyclists who “…merge over to the right before they are supposed to, over the solid white line…” in front of accelerating cars. Which is interesting. Because while she did not describe the cyclists’ action as illegal, that is certainly the implication. And my initial research suggests a merge over the solid white line in question is not illegal. Apparently in this situation in California, in the absence of road signs directing what drivers in a particular lane must do, the solid white line is advisory. And according to section 3B.04 of California’s 2012 MUTCD, single solid white lines are to be used where crossing is discouraged, and double solid white lines are to be used where crossing is prohibited.

And that’s a textbook example of anti-cycling bias: The Windshield Perspective. The “cars have priority” fallacy. The presumption that in a conflict situation where the cyclist is extremely vulnerable, it can’t be the case that the cyclist is right and should be given some distance. The presumption, instead, that a cyclist is breaking a law just by being there and by doing what he has to do to survive in a car-centric culture.

(Update: here is an excellent article by bicycle lawyer Bob Mionski about a truly egregious example of anti-cyclist bias.)

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