Monday, November 9, 2009

The Challenge of Sharing the Road

Bicycle Stories correspondent Picot Floyd sends me in a few paragraphs from a LA Times story about a car driver who hurt two bicyclists in California and highlights the challenge of creating roads that accommodate both bicyclists and cars:

Mandeville Canyon Road is a two-lane, dead-end road that twists and climbs for six miles through a quiet Brentwood neighborhood. "It's perfect for bicycling -- like honey to bears," says Jeffrey Courion, former public policy director for Velo Club La Grange, a bicycle touring and racing club.

But with just one lane in each direction and limited visibility in some places, the road has also become a flash point for conflicts between motorists and cyclists. "It's a problem of people competing for space," Courion says.

That competition turned ugly in July 2008. Brentwood doctor Christopher Thomas Thompson is currently facing trial in the L.A. County Superior Court, charged with four felony counts related to a collision with two bicyclists in Mandeville Canyon. The injured cyclists allege that Thompson deliberately pulled in front of them, then slammed on his brakes, intending to hurt them. Thompson's attorney argues that the cyclists had yelled profanities at Thompson and were to blame for the accident.

The number of people riding bicycles has exploded in recent years. U.S. census statistics released in September show a 43% increase in bike commuting nationwide between 2000 and 2008, and Courion's bike club, which often rides in Mandeville Canyon, has seen its numbers nearly double to nearly 500 in the last several years.

This surge of new bicycles on the road frustrates some motorists, leading to antagonism and altercations of which the Mandeville Canyon incident is an extreme example. And though data suggest that cycling fatalities have actually fallen nationwide, one new study suggests that the injuries cyclists suffer in traffic accidents are becoming more severe.

1 comment:

GhostRider said...

The jury returned with guilty verdicts on all counts, too. Velonews had excellent trial coverage of this terrible story over the past few weeks.