If you read about what we are doing here at the Cape Coral Police Department, you know that bicycle safety is a key focus of ours. Recently, we just completed a series of High Visibility Enforcement (HVE) operations focusing on bicycle safety issues.
With summer here and school out, even more people will take to the streets on two wheels. We'll be doing more enforcement, of course. We are also taking an educational approach and hosing a bike safety event in the coming weeks at one of the City Charter schools (stay tuned for details). But even these efforts sometimes aren't enough.
Sometimes our message gets lost in the background noise of life, so when we received a letter from a citizen who was taking the message to the streets himself, we thought it was with sharing. The letter addresses one specific cycling behavior that we see a lot- wrong-way riding. We could go into a lot of detail here explaining why it's a bad idea, but the author does a fine job, touching on the physics, the behaviors of other drivers, and the risks wrong-way riding creates:
An Open Letter To Wrong-Way Bicyclists
You are in more danger, not less, when you ride facing traffic.
I get it.
I know you truly think if you see cars coming you can avoid them when they suddenly swerve into you.
If you are on a residential street and the traffic is approaching you while on your bike and you are going about 15 mph, that traffic is headed at you at 45 mph. I don’t care if you are a world-class athlete; you are not “stepping” out of the way of a 45 mph approach.
Had this been the same “distracted” driver on the other side and you were riding with traffic, the impact would be 15 mph… a 30 mph car hitting a 15 mph cyclist. Yes, the impact still occurred yet now you have a fighting chance to survive. You’ve already made the decision to ride in traffic, so, since you are there…give yourself a chance.
Here’s another thing you may not have thought about: cars pulling out in front of you from a side street are not looking your way…almost ever. Their concern is approaching traffic to their left, not you on your bike going the wrong way on their right.
I save the best for last: Other people. Other cyclists.
When you ride on the wrong side you endanger cyclists who are riding legally. When you approach each other it’s head on. Who goes left? Who goes right? Who heads for the grass? Who heads for the street? When you both head the same way you end up…if lucky with bad headaches and ruined bikes.
And it’s your fault.
You’re going to be paying someone’s hospital bills and buying them a new bike. I ride ten thousand miles every year on the road. I ride with traffic. I have never had a close call. Thousands of cars pass me every single day on my way and coming home from work, on the busiest streets in Lee County, among them, Colonial Boulevard, the Midpoint Bridge, and Veteran’s Highway…never a close call. However, years ago when I didn’t know any better, and rode the sidewalks and the wrong way on the road…close calls three or four times each week and three crashes with motor vehicles. The only crash I have had in five years involving another vehicle was a bicyclist riding the wrong way. I broke my collarbone, crack ribs, chipped a tooth and had a severe concussion…and lost my bike. He rode off…hit and run…somehow…no injuries.
I say all this because I recently ran into a couple taking a leisurely ride on Cultural Park Boulevard in Cape Coral on a Tuesday, going the wrong way. I tried to politely explain the issues involved and instead was treated to laughter and sarcasm… and plain ignorance. Well, I truly hope we don’t “run into each other” again…literally because I ride an expensive bike and he may not want to finance a new one for me. Hopefully, in his ignorance that’s the only price he ever pays for an enjoyable neighborhood ride.
Be safe, ride with traffic,
Robert Sciolono, Cape Coral
About the author:
Robert Sciolono is a former bicycle racer who bike commutes 30 miles each day, six days a week from the Cape to Fort Myers. He rides across the Midpoint Bridge everyday, twice. He has lived in the Cape for fifteen years now with his lovely wife Beth. He is training to race again, currently.