Related to this kind of initiative is the view of residents and law enforcement on cyclists.  As we all know the issue could use some education   Unfortunately as many of you may have heard the Tuesday Gainey ride had a mass pull over this week by PV police.  Each side has an argument and I sent the following correspondence to the chief of police to see if there was an opportunity for dialogue.  Although clearly I'm biased I did attempt to take into consideration the concerns of the potential complainants. It's lengthy because it needed some detail. 

 

Good afternoon Chief Wingert

 

As I am sure you are aware this morning a group of cyclists that regularly leaves the Gainey Village at 5:30AM was stopped in mass on E Hummingbird Lane following the stop sign at E Quartz Mountain Rd.  A few things should preface this correspondence

 

-          The officers did appear prior to the groups departure last Thursday at Gainey Village to let us know about the complaints that have been logged and that laws would be enforced in the future.

-          The Tuesday and Thursday rides from Gainey Village have taken essentially the same routes for many many years, the Tuesday ride through Paradise Valley.

-          Without question it is commonplace for cyclists to scoff at some traffic laws, most are guilty and to plead otherwise would be senseless.

-          Many cyclists choose to ride at this early time in order to avoid vehicular and pedestrian traffic for their own safety.

-          Unfortunately, as we must accept, a few people can ruin any reasonably acceptable activity.  This is not limited to the cyclists.  I am sure that of the complainants you deal with the numbers are small but the people are vocal.  These vocal few lead to an unproductive fixation on cyclists behavior.

 

With that I believe there are some common sense concerns that should be recognized on the part of the cyclists, the complaining public and law enforcement.

 

Let’s first be reasonable and accept that a traffic mistake by a vehicle is far more likely to lead to personal or property harm than a bicycle.  Nationwide the incidents of accidents occurring as a result of cycling scofflaws is negligible according to statistics.  I am curious if you would even have supporting data that shows how stop sign violators are causing accidents in Paradise Valley.  I am guessing there have been none or very few related to cyclists since the City’s inception.  Knowing that of course your office does get calls about “reckless” cyclists I would also be interested in understanding how those numbers compare to say, barking dogs or wild animals in the neighborhoods.  Are the nuisances of a few really worth the collective focus of the department shown this morning?

 

If you follow just about any major media coverage of street etiquette and safety you most likely have seen a piece vilifying people on bikes for “running” stop signs.  But I challenge you to hop on a bike yourself, and you’ll see why safely rolling and yielding at stop signs makes sense. The stop sign law in effect in almost every state has a fundamental flaw: It assumes that bicycles are just like cars, creating unrealistic expectation that someone on a bike should make a full stop at every stop sign, even when there are plainly no cars or pedestrians nearby.

 

The problem with this is that it effectively criminalizes the way people naturally negotiate stop sign intersections on a bike: by slowing, checking for traffic, and being prepared to yield to others. The reason behind this is, basically, that operating a bicycle is quite different from driving a multi-ton, motorized vehicle.  A bicycle doesn’t encase the user in a metal frame that hinders vision.  There is no feeling of invincibility on a bike, the smallest rock or sand can cause a cyclist to hurt themselves, therefore a cyclist tends to be much more aware about where they place their bicycle. Bicycles can also stop on a dime compared to cars.  It’s for those reasons and more that when driving a car, the care needed to avoid a crash is drastically higher.

 

Bike advocates across the country push for communities to adopt the “Idaho Stop”, yield at stop, but it is a highly contentious policy that only a very few educated and enlightened communities have been able to put in place.  The Idaho Stop allows bicycle riders to treat stop signs as yield signs.  This means that while a bicycle rider still can’t blow though stop signs or violate anyone’s right of way – which is dangerous and should be enforced – they are allowed to slow down, check for traffic, and proceed legally.  This too is for another conversation.

 

This brings me to this morning and most every other morning in the location where our group was pulled over.

 

-          From the time we left Gainey until the stoppage we did not see any pedestrians or vehicles on the road.

-          While we were stopped at the “scene” (20 – 30 minutes) not one pedestrian or vehicle passed the group other than the officer who was stationed at the stop sign with a recording device who drove down to us.

-          Typically when we do see other vehicles on this ride we are travelling at nearly the speed limit (20 – 30 mph is typical) through Paradise Valley.  Any other independent vehicle travelling at our same speed would hardly be considered a hazard.  It also negates the typical complaint of a group of riders spread out across the road impeding traffic to some great extent.  It simply is more times than not impatience that dictates an angry call to your office not the few seconds, yes seconds, someone would be delayed being stuck behind a group.  Travel the length of Double Tree at the posted speed limit and at 20 miles per hour and most would be surprised at how insignificant the delay actually would be.

-          When pedestrians are encountered it is common practice for a call to reverberate throughout the cycling group that they exist.  No one wants to hit a pedestrian, an object or a vehicle and it is incumbent on all of us to call them out.

 

To the point of the complainant(s) I can understand why they might feel threatened by speeding bicycles while they are out on their morning walk with or without their animals in the dark.  I understand it, but recognize based on statistics, that they are in little danger. I also understand that a bicycle sometimes “sneaks’ up on pedestrians because they don’t make much noise.  That is a different issue and one not reasonably mitigated other than the aforementioned calling out by the group. 

 

Do the pedestrians feel safer with a vehicle at the same or greater speeds just because they can see them in the distance?  Perhaps but reasonable?  Education would prove that cyclists are not distracted by phones, radios, other passengers, etc. etc, therefore are safer than almost anything else a pedestrian might encounter.

 

Let us also consider this particular stop sign.  Would making every cyclist stop at that particular sign where the scene was this morning make a difference in what these pedestrians might encounter.  The answer is absolutely not.  Whether a cyclist stops at the top of this particular hill or cautiously rolls through it would make very little if no difference at the speed at which the cyclist could attain within 20 yards of leaving the stop sign.  My contention is simple, stopping at the sign makes no difference in how the cyclists will be perceived by the complainants.

 

To your job, how can we make it easier and take our group off of your radar?  We sure can strive to educate our group and make sure we know where people are most concerned and adjust our speed in those areas.  Frankly we won’t be able to educate everyone that will use the roads of Paradise Valley so this won’t stop your problem.  Writing the people in our group tickets isn’t going to change anything.  I am sure that this group in particular will continue to ride in Paradise Valley and most likely on this road at this time.  Tickets may in fact have the opposite effect and garner the department unwanted attention by other Paradise Valley residents, which many of us are.  

 

Yours isn’t the only community that this is occurring in this morning.  In my many years of riding I have seen these issues come and go.  Unfortunately it is a no win in the beginning.  You have constituents that don’t want us there and they think you enforcing the traffic laws will dissuade us from exercise.  That won’t be the case.  One of our potential next steps is to ride in protest of the enhanced enforcement by utilizing all of the rights given and expected to us on the road.  In the past in other communities I have seen this happen at the height of rush hour in a single line of riders hundreds long that utilize the road we are provided and stop at every sign.  Believe me you will get many more complaints for cyclists obeying the laws and rules of the road than a few who walk their dogs in the morning.  The law in every state gives cyclists latitude to ride where we feel safe, Arizona’s law includes the following language.  Note the term “less than normal speed”.  If Paradise Valley does not have a minimum posted speed, the speed at which our group travels could not be considered abnormal therefore each individual has the right to the road.

28-815. Riding on roadways and bicycle paths; prohibition of motor vehicle traffic on bike paths

A. A person riding a bicycle on a roadway at less than the normal speed of traffic at the time and place and under the conditions then existing shall ride as close as practicable to the right-hand curb or edge of the roadway, except under any of the following situations:

1.      If overtaking and passing another bicycle or vehicle proceeding in the same direction.

2.      If preparing for a left turn at an intersection or into a private road or driveway.

3.      If reasonably necessary to avoid conditions, including fixed or moving objects, parked or moving vehicles, bicycles, pedestrians, animals or surface hazards.

4.      If the lane in which the person is operating the bicycle is too narrow for a bicycle and a vehicle to travel safely side by side within the lane.

Perhaps if our group is educated and embraces the pedestrians and motorists in this area with a smile that will help.  Probably more than anything.  I would be interested in your opinion.  Our group hopes for a resolution that moves this forward rather than backwards and I would be happy to participate in these conversations. 

 


Rodney A Riley