The idea of a battle between bicycles and cars has been fueled by several overwrought media reports of some isolated incidents this year. Now a local TV station has picked up on the meme. KSHB-TV 41′s Chris Hernandez (who is a cyclist) has filed a special report on the topic, using some pretty inflammatory language like “fierce battle” and “street fight” – words that greatly exaggerate the situation here in Kansas City. Nevertheless, it still has some good stuff, including some helmet cam video showing people what the streets look like from a bicyclist’s perspective.
Bikes Versus Cars on the Streets
KANSAS CITY, Mo. – With higher gas prices and drive to go green, more people are trying out biking for transportation.
But new bikers might not realize they’re jumping into a fierce debate between cyclists and cars over where the bikes should ride and who’s at fault during a crash.
The battle between bikes and cars was inflamed by a recent verdict.
A jury acquitted William K. Johnson of involuntary manslaughter after he testified that two bicycles had swerved in front of his vehicle.
Larry Gaunt and his granddaughter Sierra were killed while training for a charity ride.
For a special report, NBC Action News strapped cameras on bikes to see the view from the road.
From the bike’s point of view, the road can be a dangerous place.
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Last year a truck ran Noah Dunker off the road.
“I had to either hit the curb or let him run into me, so I hit the curb,” Dunker said. “I went over my handlebars, face first into the ground.”
He’s still recovering. Dunker said, “I broke my face in two places and knocked a couple of teeth out.”
We put a camera on Dunker’s bike and another on a friend’s helmet, to capture Dunker’s 14 mile commute.
From downtown to Lenexa, sometimes he has to ride between constructions and traffic or swerve around debris in the road. The helmet cam shows cars cutting it close while crossing intersections to make the light.
“You don’t see us if you’re not looking for us. I know you’re looking for other cars, look for us, because we’re out, and we’re out in increasing numbers lately,” Dunker said.
Some car drivers say cyclists need to be more careful. It’s a two way debate.
One driver said, “Makes you wonder what they’re going to do next because a lot of time you don’t get signals or anything.”
Dunker replied, “They yell and honk every once in a while, you get used to it.”
Another driver, Nicole Burris, said, “If they’re right along the side of the road, it makes me a little nervous to drive next to them. I’m afraid I’m going to hit them.”
Laurie Chipman advocates for safer biking. She says bikers face different obstacles than drivers.
“There’s lots of things on the road that motorists can’t always see, glass, potholes, there’s tire-eating grates,” Chipman said.
Deb Ridgeway explained Kansas City’s effort to replace 280 old sewer grates with a flat, bike-friendly screen that won’t catch tires.
Then you’ll see “share the road” signs going up to create up to 30 miles of bike routes in the next year.
She is KCMO’s bike/pedestrian coordinator.
“Help to show motorists that bikes are legal vehicles of the road, that is where they are supposed to be,” Ridgeway said.
Jim Caskey pedals 250 miles a week as he trains for an ironman triathlon.
He says he respects cars. But when he’s riding to the right, he fears being sideswiped as cars pass within inches.
“It’s a little unnerving; I’m not going to lie. It’ll rattle you. On certain roads there’s four lanes, why not just give me a little bit of space?” Caskey said.
One of the most common bike versus car accidents is called the right hook. It’s when a driver comes around a bike on the left, then suddenly turns right, cuts off the bike and there’s nearly a collision.
Some bike groups are pushing a new law that would create more penalties for drivers who hit bikers or pedestrians.
One proposal didn’t make much progress in the Missouri legislature.
Chipman said, “These people have a right to transport themselves as they wish without being in danger.”
But experienced cyclists also admit that some of their own don’t follow or don’t even know the rules of the road.
Here’s some advice from Chipman: don’t ride on the sidewalk and don’t ride against the traffic.
And from Caskey, “We’re riding two abreast, and if cars are coming we’ll single it out for a while or if the lane is getting tight, we’ll single it out.”
In Kansas City it is illegal for bikes to ride on sidewalks in business districts. That’s part of why bikes belong on the road in busy places.