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Spring’s annual onslaught

Marking spring, every year, an onslaught of bicycles, motorcycles, children and other pedestrians begin mixing with traffic.  An “onslaught” implies an event of overwhelming nature, so maybe it’s more of an emergence, since dealing with these entities should not be that daunting.

The annual emergence will flow like an ever-more-opened spigot as each new threshold of daily warmth is achieved.  As a result, drivers simply need to increase vigilance and tolerance for two-wheeled vehicles, people and pets.

It doesn’t matter if you think children should not play in the street, teens should not walk amid traffic while staring at smart phones, bicyclists should stay in bike lanes, or that motorcyclists are heathens.  I’m sure that even those who possess such biases do not wish to permanently change their and others’ lives due to a crash involving a “helpless” or even “clueless” individual.

I’ve past written of the hate/hate relationship of many auto drivers and bicycle riders.  Basically, some drivers believe that bicycles have no right to the roadway (though law belies that notion) because they are too slow, don’t follow rules, get in the way, or pay no registration fees.  Alternatively, many cyclists believe drivers are “out to get them,” a thought generated from episodes of close calls with motorists, coupled with the frequent middle fingers and shouting aimed toward them.

I’ve also past written that there is little hope for this situation to change, since bicycles are unavoidably smaller and slower than cars, and drivers carrying “the bigger stick” can be bullies.  While some riders bristle at the suggestion (because they have legal roadway rights), I think retreating to “lesser” roads adjacent to the main routes and following the rules of the road can assist bicycle riders in avoiding unpleasant vehicle encounters.  As for motorists, angry drivers must succumb to the fact that bicycles do have a legal right to the road, allowing them ample room when passing.

Regarding pedestrians, even though many are not using due care and caution, it is incumbent upon drivers to avoid hitting them.  There are indeed several sections in the Revised Code of Washington laws requiring pedestrians to use crosswalks, to not step suddenly into traffic, and to yield to traffic when out of crosswalks.  However, the evident mismatch of mass between cars and pedestrians caused lawmakers to enact a “catchall” law that puts motorists on alert.  RCW 46.61.145, titled “Drivers to exercise care,” reads:  Notwithstanding the foregoing provisions of this chapter every driver of a vehicle shall exercise due care to avoid colliding with any pedestrian upon any roadway and shall give warning by sounding the horn when necessary and shall exercise proper precaution upon observing any child or any obviously confused or incapacitated person upon a roadway.

Again, regardless of the party at fault, survival chances for the “lesser” entity in accidents involving automobiles with much smaller two-wheelers and pedestrians are dim, so no driver should want to be a part of that crash pairing.

In a related phenomenon, the survival rate for pedestrians struck by motor vehicles is substantially greater at vehicle speeds below 20 mph.  That’s why speed is reduced in school and construction zones, and why fines for speeding infractions in those locations are doubled and mandatory.

So, please accommodate the annual emergence of people, pets, wheelchairs, bicycles and motorcycles, offering them tolerance and enhanced safety.

Readers may contact Bill Love via e-mail at precisiondriving@spokesman.com.  

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