Cyclist asks drivers for a share of the road


July 16, 2002|By Jody K. Vilschick | Jody K. Vilschick,SPECIAL TO THE SUN

CYCLISTS AND drivers still don't admit they must share the road.

Roberta Poling, who identifies herself as a cyclist "living and riding in Howard County" is working to change this situation. "What I would like to tell drivers and cyclists alike is to respect each other and view the situation from the other person's point of view," she pleads.

"Most drivers try to accommodate bikes on the roads," she said. But she notes what she sees as a growing problem in Howard County: growth itself. "Some roads that used to be bicycle-friendly are now very crowded with many lanes. Sometimes it is necessary to travel on these crowded roads to get to the more bike-friendly roads," she said, referring to Route 103 and the Long Gate Shopping Center as an example of a formerly bike-friendly road.

"Before the shopping center, this area wasn't much of [a] problem. But now it is crazy. I use this section of road to get to some of the neighborhoods around St. Johns Lane or Dorsey Search where it is safer to ride. I try to always ride on the shoulder on the right, but then I have to move over to the center lane to go over the bridge over U.S. 29 as the right hand lane is the turn lane only," she said.

"Sometimes it is hard to get over with all the traffic in the area. ... I would like drivers to realize I have to ride as far right as possible to help stay out of their way, but then to go straight, I have to merge over," she said. She mentioned drivers' poor behavior, including leaning out of windows to try to grab or swipe her legs and drivers throwing water balloons at her.

She asked me to ask you: Where do you go to cycle in safety?

Drivers who don't understand the purpose of pavement markings really dent David Towle's fenders. "The lines on the roads are not decorations," he complained. "I frequently drive Route 108 through Howard. On the stretch about one half mile on either side of the Howard/Montgomery County line, I frequently (and often on the blind curves!) encounter drivers who are one to two feet over the center line. Apparently they think the center line is a guide for their left front tire."

Sort of like the gleaming black BMW I spotted parked in two spaces -- quite deliberately, since the car was carefully parked over the dividing line -- at Starbucks, off Dobbin Road, on July 5.

While the first is dangerous and the second merely inexcusably selfish, either way the advice is the same: Drive between the lines, folks.

Pedestrian right-of-way

Columbia's Karen Gilbert wonders about the law governing crosswalk right-of-way. One recent weekend, she remembers, "I was standing on the curb at a crosswalk, waiting to cross, when a police car drove past me at normal speed -- no flashing lights or siren so he didn't appear to be in pursuit of anyone. I have seen signs stating that the state law is to yield to pedestrians in a crosswalk. Does this mean the pedestrian must have set foot in the crosswalk or merely be standing on the curb at a crosswalk?"

My first instinct is to say that if a car is coming, get out of the way.

Here is what Sgt. Frederick Von Brieson, who is in charge of traffic enforcement for the Howard County police, had to say: "Vehicles must yield to pedestrians if they are already in the crosswalk." This includes police and emergency vehicles that don't have flashing lights or sirens on. It's worth noting that this also applies to marked crosswalks in shopping center parking lots.

However, he added, "Someone should not step out in front of an oncoming vehicle and not allow the driver time to stop."

So pedestrians must weigh the law and a healthy sense of self-preservation, I'm convinced.

Von Brieson also said that at crosswalks that have signals, the law states that pedestrians may enter the crosswalk only when the signal indicates to do so; at that time, cars and other vehicles must yield after a pedestrian is off the curb. Again, pedestrians should not step off the curb in front of an oncoming vehicle.

Everyone -- pedestrians and drivers alike -- must yield to emergency vehicles with flashing lights and sirens sounding. You don't have to be a traffic columnist to understand that.

A Correction

Tiana Coll of Woodbine read last week's column, which mentioned construction this month on Route 32 north, between Old Frederick Road and Route 99. She wondered, "Aren't Old Frederick Road and Route 99 one and the same?"

The lane closure is actually between Route 144/Frederick Road and Route 99/Old Frederick Road. A typographical error on the Coordinated Highways Action Response Team (CHART) Web site ( d_closures.asp) translated into a big error in this column, for which I apologize.

What's your traffic trauma? Contact Jody K. Vilschick at Technophobes can mail letters to Traffic Talk, The Sun in Howard County, 5570 Sterrett Place, Suite 300, Columbia 21044, or fax 410-715-2816.

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