I would like to respond to Mary Ann Tharp’s “Follow the rules” letter to the editor in the Nov. 24 Herald-Times.
Rules: The bicycle is considered a vehicle and should obey all traffic laws as does a motor vehicle on streets, roads and highways. The Bloomington Bicycle Club and Bicycle Indiana strongly support this mandate, and I would hope that all serious bicyclists obey traffic laws and are well lit at night. Historically, though, traffic laws were instituted when society realized that motor vehicles were potential lethal weapons to pedestrians.
In well-documented studies showing all street users, traffic rules are broken by everybody. Pedestrians jaywalk, bicyclists yield at stop signs rather than putting their foot down at a stop sign, and motorists speed and don’t use their turn signals and roll through stop signs. Those studies have shown that the same percentage of each type break the law.
Bloomington spends a fortune: The majority of alternative transportation projects in Bloomington benefit walkers, joggers and bicyclists. In fact, bicyclists on the B-Line are a minority of the users. Also, these alternative transportation facilities benefit the motor vehicles by reducing the amount of motor vehicles and traffic gridlock. Projects like the B-Line were financed mostly through state and federal grants, and I doubt a small bicycle license fee would pay for much of anything related to upkeep. Should we also have stroller licenses, dog leash licenses and jogging shoe licenses, as they use the B-Line, too? I doubt that automobile license fees contribute much to street, road or highway upkeep, either.
Helmets: The use of a helmet is like motorists using their seat belts. There is a seat belt law, but how many motorists break that law? Trying to implement a helmet law would never be passed in Indiana, as that would include motorcyclists and scooters.
Motorists hitting a biker: Too many times our modern society and law enforcement regard this as an accident, although the motorist should have been cited for a law broken. Many states have “a 3-foot law” to further define that motorists must be aware at all times. Unfortunately, Indiana does not currently have this law.
Through education and promotion by the city, I observe many more bicyclists following traffic laws and riding with lights at night. Perhaps Ms. Tharp’s frustration is that there are more bicyclists in Bloomington than a typical Midwestern city of the same size. Motorists must realize that streets and roads were not constructed just for them. We all need to share the roads and the responsibilities of using them.