I thought Tim Butts, president of the St. Pete Bike Club, did a great job at writing a letter to a civic association president who was complaining that cyclists in her neighborhood was hogging the lane.
Notice how Tim stuck to the facts and wrote what I thought was a very professional letter, while Judy the civic association president used rhetoric such as referring to the cyclists as "...gangs as they maraud through here ...”
What I'm going to do is first post a letter from a Lakewood resident to her civic association president, Judy; then the letter by Judy, the Lakewood association president and finally Butts' response.
The First Letter
I just wanted to take a minute and say thanks for your diligence and hard work and for keeping up on everything the rest of us need to be keeping up on.
Your effort and hard work are much appreciated by me and my family.
On another note I was wondering what if anything is happening with the bicycle riders using our neighborhood for their personal track?
I noticed that streets are being marked out for a bicycle lane meant for single file riding. At the same time I have observed 2 people riding side by side and still taking an entire lane to themselves.
Also, I was behind one solo rider who was determined not to let me pass no matter how much room I gave him. It seems that it’s the solo riders or the couples that cause the most trouble.
They refuse to obey the law and swerve back and forth in the lane so that you cannot safely go around them. My son is only 15 and is learning how to drive and while he was behind the wheel recently
we had one of these experiences. He was not driving too closely or trying to pass with oncoming traffic he was simply trying to safely maneuver the road.
Riders comes thru here in bulk and they seem to manage, for the most part, to stay orderly and far enough to the side so that you can pass without incident.
I fully understand that we do not own the roads here and I don’t think I have some right to pick and chose who comes thru here but I do live here. Its almost funny that we could not let our son ride
his bicycle when he was young because of the people who sped thru here so fast that they were a danger. Now he has to be extra careful learning to drive so that someone who doesn’t even live here can ride his bike all over an entire lane. Judy, is there someone I need to contact or email or maybe write a letter about this issue? What can I do to make this better or is there anything to be done?
I am passing this on to the new mayor and to my contact in the St Pete bike club but wanted you to know that continuing to add bike lanes is becoming a real problem in this city. The lanes this man is talking about, recently added on Columbus , and are never used by the peletons - they ride now and always have ridden in the middle of the road in Lakewood , often using all of it and giving the state bird salute to anyone who objects. They don't even slow down for our 4-way stops, let alone come to a halt. While we are tolerant of the stop-sign infractions, recognizing it is not easy to stop a long line of bicycles, our courtesies are not reciprocated.
Much of the western lane on Columbus, in the 5000 block, filled up with pine needles within a day after it was put down, is now virtually invisible, and never used.
As before, we are going to have to bring out our crime patrol on a Saturday morning, with a little help from the SPPD, to shake an angry finger at these gangs as they maraud through here, oblivious to the needs of the residents. I recently witnessed a police officer on 3rd Street , one Saturday morning, riding behind a peleton with a megaphone repeating MOVE TO THE RIGHT, MOVE TO THE RIGHT. Not an hour later I saw the same group in Lakewood , back in the middle of the road.
I hope we have laid our last bike lane in this city, I truly do. We seem to have carried our desire to be bicycle friendly to an extreme that no longer serves any public purpose.
Tim Butts' Response
John Sinibaldi forwarded me your e-mail.
Although the SPBC appreciates the City Government's continuing efforts to improve the City's "cycling infrastructure" (in this case, per the Lakewood Civic Association Neighborhood Traffic Plan Map, updated in 2007) your comments identify one problem with bike lanes. Obviously, a lane covered with pine needles is not a safe place to ride. In many cases, generally, not just in St. Pete, bicycle lanes are not safe to ride in. One problem is debris or uneven pavement in the bike lanes. In recognition of the variable nature of the roadway surface Florida law does not require cyclists to ride on the right side of the road at all times or in bicycle lanes (Section 316.2065(5)(a) 3, F.S.). The law requires cyclists to ride as far to the right as practical. Practical reasons for not riding next to the right curb of a road or in a bicycle lane include, but are not limited to: debris (i.e. bricks, 2X4's, bottle caps, glass, pine needles, etc.); pot-holes; bumps; substandard-width of the bicycle lane; and visibility limitations of the bicycle lane.
Further, the law (Section 316.2065(5)(a)3, F.S.) allows cyclists to ride two abreast (but not more) as long as they do not impede traffic. An exception to this is where the traffic lane is not wide enough for a motor vehicle to pass a cyclist safely. Although not specified in Florida law, that is generally recognized as a width of 14 feet. That is, if a traffic lane is less then 14 feet wide the cyclist may "take the lane" (i.e. ride in the middle of the road) to prevent the motorist from trying to unsafely pass them. Logically, in that situation, two cyclists riding abreast would achieve the same effect. Although I have not measured them, I suspect many lanes, but not all, in Lakewood Estates are less than 14 feet wide.
The Club has and continues to take many steps to educate our members on cycling law, safe riding, and in general Sharing the Road. We have provided documents to our members (Florida Cycling Law Enforcement Guide, Group Riding Guidelines & 10 Rules for Riding with the St. Petersburg Bicycle Club), provided links to various informational web sites (Stpetecycling.com, Floridabicycle.org, and Flbikelaw.org) and provided forums for members to discuss safely/legal issues (Google and Facebook). We continue to look for new methods to educate our members and increase the safety of our group rides. What steps has the Lakewood Civic Association taken to inform its members about cycling/vehicle law and Sharing the Road?
Unfortunately, cyclists, even members of the St. Petersburg Bicycle Club, are not perfect, and many cyclists in the City have no relationship with the Club. The Club stresses respect for all other users of the roads: other cyclists, pedestrians, and motorists. If indeed a cyclists in a group ride gives you or one of your members a “one finger salute” please let me know the time and place of that occurrence. I will do my best to identify the offending party and – if they are a Club member - explain to them, in detail, that such behavior is unacceptable in the St. Petersburg Bicycle Club.
I will point out that the motorists/cyclists relationship is a two-way street. We - cyclists in the City of St. Petersburg - are confronted daily with threats of injury or death by motorists who are either careless or ignorant of the law, or both. These violations of the law by motorist can cause, and all too often this year have caused, injury to our members. I have no problem with the SPPD enforcing Florida ’s traffic laws and ticketing cyclists for disobeying those laws, if they are enforcing the law evenly and ticket motorists for infractions at the same time.
Judy – I have found you in the past to be a reasonable person interested in solutions, not rhetoric, but I must take umbrage with your use of the phrase "...gangs as they maraud through here ...” Those "Gangs" are Florida Citizens (mostly City of St. Petersburg residents) who are riding (marauding?) their bicycles legally on a public road. As Citizens, and Human Beings, they deserve more respect than that.
Ride, and Drive, Safely,
President St. Petersburg Bicycle Club