Spring Safety Lesson

This is a letter/article submitted to The Baltimore Sun, before Mel Pachino’s accident (“Pikesville Pharmacist Mel Pachino Struck By Car, In Critical Condition,” online only, May 5), but it is very relevant here, too. The recent accident involving jogger Dr. Ted Houck (and now bicyclist Mel Pachino) brings to the forefront safety while running and cycling. I am 61 years old, and this is my third season riding a bike. It can be very scary at times. I have come to the conclusion that some drivers, and it only takes one, are unaware of how to drive when they see a cyclist or runner.

This article is to inform those drivers so that we hopefully don’t read about another accident this season. For the sake of space, when I write cyclist, read cyclist or runner.

Let’s start with the law. The law recently passed in Maryland is to give 3 feet between your car and the cyclist. Remember, your side-view mirror sticks out 6 to 12 inches. I have been witness to a rider being nicked by a mirror and he went down. It doesn’t take much from a moving vehicle. If you are unable to give the cyclist 3 feet, you are req-uired to slow down and follow until you are able.

Cyclists have the same right to the road as a motorist.  Cyclists, it means you too, have to follow the traffic laws. Some cyclists ride their bikes like the law doesn’t apply to them. Stop signs and stop lights are only suggestions to them. Not so. There are too many close calls because cyclists can’t wait. If you are on your bike, by definition you aren’t in a hurry. So, cyclists, follow the law. Just because we cyclists have the same right, or even the right of way, it is just plain stupid to challenge a car. You will lose every time.

Now for the common-sense part. I don’t care how much of a hurry you are in, it will ruin your day and possibly much of your life, if you hit a cyclist or runner. I would think that crippling or killing a person because you were late to work would be life changing. Bottom line: It is not worth taking the chance. You can’t imagine how much we appreciate drivers who move over or wait for us. It means that they understand we are just out for some fun and exercise and want to return home in one piece. They also don’t want to take the chance of getting into an accident.

Now, for some unwritten rules.
1. You are at a stop sign or light and you see a cyclist with the right of way coming at you. Don’t try to dart out and make it. Please wait.
2. You are following a cyclist who is riding on the right side of the road and you have to turn right. You could make it if you hurried. Please wait.
3. You are coming up on a cyclist and there is a hill or curve up ahead. Don’t floor it so you can pass before the crest of the hill or the curve. This is both dangerous for you, the cyclist, and the person coming over that hill or around that curve. Please wait. Since we are ahead of you, we can see farther. Most of us will signal you if it is safe to pass. Remember, we also drive cars.

4. Before you get out of your parallel-parked car, look in the rear-view mirror. Many accidents happen bec-ause drivers just open their doors without looking. It is obvious what happens to the cyclist, but the cyclist could also be a truck or car. Please wait and take a two-second look.
5. Forget your cell phone. Please wait until you are at your destination or until you pull over to see what emergency needs your attention.
6. We know you are there (most of the time). Don’t honk. Don’t scream. It scares us.
7. If a cyclist is in the middle of the lane, it is probably for a reason. … Again, don’t honk, we know you are there. Please wait, we will move over when we can or stop to let you pass.

So let’s all enjoy our spring and summer … and not read about another tragedy like Dr. Houck, Mel Pachino or JHU student Nathan Krasnopoler. … I wish a speedy and complete recovery to Dr. Houck and Mel Pachino.

Steven Pinson
Baltimore

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