In response to "Keep bikes off the road," June 1, 2004:
While she "appreciate(s) Steve Wolf's concern for safety on the road," Ms. Tonsgard fails to appreciate the courtesy most bicyclists extend by marginalizing their right of way and their safety when riding on the shoulder.
The state of Alaska legally classifies bicycles as vehicles; cyclists are allowed to use most roads in the state, excepting freeways and expressways. Although Alaska state vehicle codes say that bicyclists should operate as far to the right as is "practical," most cyclists will point out that in many situations it is safer and more appropriate to ride away from the right hand edge of the roadway or outside of the appointed bike lane, where debris makes riding dangerous or impossible and other potential hazards exist, and it is perfectly legal and acceptable for bicyclists to ride in the middle of the right-hand traffic lane. Keep in mind, when driving, that while your traffic lane may be clear of debris, the bike lane or shoulder is commonly not.
In addition, if a cyclist feels that the shoulder, bike lane, or traffic lane is not wide enough for a motorist to safely pass them, or if a cyclist must make a left-hand turn on the roadway, they have every right to take the lane, and commonly do. Contrary to Ms. Tonsgard's statement, this is both safe and legal.
I'd like to thank all of the Juneau drivers who look out for bicycles and help to keep cyclists safe by yielding the right of way when necessary, however frustrating that may be at times.
Cyclists, for the most part, aren't out there to break laws or hold up traffic. While reducing fuel consumption, traffic congestion, and fuel-related emissions by bicycle commuting is perhaps radical in these days of SUV glory, we're just going about our business like everybody else (well, maybe we're having a bit more fun). Bicycling is an alternative to paying $2 or more for a gallon for gasoline, and not only is it better for the environment, it's better for our health.
So, slow down and give cyclists the space they deserve. ... I'll thank you for it on my way to work tomorrow.