Make a little room for those who ride

Letter to the editor

Posted: Friday, May 25, 2007

I'm not sure if Robert Tonkin meant for his letter to be published on National Bike to Work Day, (May 18) but the irony was not lost on me.

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His complaint appears to be that those pesky bicyclists keep trying to assert their place on the road he's trying to drive on. Apparently, bicyclists only deserve a patch of asphalt if they pay some sort of registration fee, or perhaps a tax on tight spandex pants. Until then, they just better get out of the way and not expect a "parity that doesn't exist."

Actually, that parity is pretty clearly spelled out in state law, which states: "Every person operating a bicycle upon a roadway has all the rights and is subject to all the duties applicable to the driver of any other vehicle."

Sounds pretty straightforward to me.

Now, I would be the first to admit that too many bicyclists don't always follow the rules, but we can't start faulting those riders who assert their fair place in traffic. Sometimes the rules say you have to yield, and that goes for the folks in $40,000 pickups as well as the ones on $1,800 bikes.

If Tonkin is really concerned about who's picking up the tab for all the roads, maybe he should reflect on what's being paid for. Roads are supposed to be a right-of-way for everybody to travel. Some of those people might be in cars, some might be on bikes, and some might (gasp!) walk. According to state law, they can even be used for herding animals (which was a new one on me).

You wouldn't guess it from the way roads are designed and maintained, though. Narrow shoulders force bicyclists to compete for space with motor vehicles, and sidewalks are an afterthought everywhere but in urban cores. During the winter, snow removal crews race to make streets safe for cars, but clearing the berms from shoulders and sidewalks is the last priority.

We already live in a car-centric world, so maybe Tonkin could make a little room for those of us who choose to ride a bike.

Either that, or I bring out the sheep.

Jake Musslewhite

La Conner, Wash.

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