OPINION – Have you ever heard the saying the right hand does not know what the left hand is doing?
When it comes to building a cohesive relationship with cyclists in Southern Utah it would appear that the right hand is not even aware there is a left hand.
The right hand in this scenario is Utah Department of Transportation. The left hand is the cycling community who now have no choice, when riding north or south on Highway 18 between the Ledges and Veyo, but to ride in the actual traffic lane.
Why? Because rumble strips have been installed.
Rumble strips, also known as sleeper lines or audible lines, are a road safety feature that alerts inattentive drivers to potential danger by causing a tactile vibration and audible rumbling transmitted through the wheels into the auto body. Usually applied in the direction of traffic and in the center lane, these features aid in the prevention of vehicle accidents.
Great for motorists, bad for cyclists. Cyclists once had the option of at least riding inside the line despite there not actually being a designated bike lane and despite it being somewhat precarious as well due to inconsistent width and road debris. And, if you ride this route there is an added threat to safety to be aware of: About a foot of the shoulder appears to be solid new asphalt; the final-spray topcoat extends well beyond the pavement giving the appearance of a solid surface. But, rider beware. If you try and ride on the outermost foot of the shoulder you will actually sink into soft gravel and likely crash.
Navigating these rumble strips from a road bike or mountain bike at low speeds is tricky at best but when traveling at speeds in excess of 10 mph, (speeds between 25-45 mph are common on this route), it simply is not an option, which forces the rider to the traffic lane.
Now here is where the tense banter begins. Proponents of the notion that roads are for cars not for bikes will contend that cyclists should stay on designated bike paths. An example is the one that runs parallel to Highway 18 from Snow Canyon to Snow Canyon Parkway.
There are two problems with that, and they are both the by-product of misinformed motorists.
One, cyclists are legally allowed to ride two abreast in regular traffic lanes.
Two, the path along Highway 18 is a pedestrian path, not a designated bike lane. This means that any pedestrian has the right to be there and cyclists must share the path with them traveling at safe speeds. A cyclist who plans to exceed 10 mph needs to be on the road or in a designated bike lane which does not exist in this county.
So the conundrum is in a growth policy that is broadly unaccommodating. Here we have a municipality with a mindset bent towards incredible growth, taking revenue in the form of federal aid through tax dollars to support growth, all the while ignoring the needs of core groups of its ensuing diversification of people.
In other words, the cycling community is large and getting larger. It brings races, events, and revenue here to the tune of hundreds of thousands of dollars and its needs should be included in any and all road projects present and future.
A few weeks back this very issue was the subject of much-heated debate and motorists in the area defined themselves quite acutely as being angry and unwilling to acquiesce to this formidable and legal activity. But even they recognize the benefit of a bike lane and the fact that it is a viable attainable solution.
For good measure here I will say that I have witnessed a fair share of cyclists who disobey traffic laws and to them I say, knock it off. Cyclists are having a hard enough time getting proper attention to what is clearly a safety issue for them, and your behavior, irresponsible cyclists, creates strife.
Motorists, you already know what I think of you. But before you go accusing me of being biased toward the plights of cyclists, let me say that I bet you who would accuse me do not ride yourselves – but you do drive.
I ride. I also drive. Want to run that biased thing by me again?
See you out there.
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St. George News columnists are responsible for their own content and offer their own opinions, which may not reflect those of St. George News.
Copyright 2012 St. George News.