As a lifelong cyclist and bicycle accident lawyer, I am all too familiar with anti-cyclist bias. Motorists frequently view cyclists as a nuisance who’s presence on the roadways serve only to slow down their commutes or otherwise make them nervous while driving their cars. This type of thinking is dangerous, as it can cause motorists to behave erratically or aggressively when confronted by a cyclist’s presence, and all too frequently leads to disastrous results.
Recent news reports out of New York have now brought this problem to the attention of the broader public. Here is the story:
Sandy Cutrone, a cyclist and resident of Suffolk County, New York, was struck by a van and thrown from her bicycle at a cross walk. Sandy was seriously injured, and suffered broken bones and a concussion in the crash. Fortunately, she was wearing a helmet at the time of the crash. A simple thing which probably saved her life. In connection with a school project, Sandy’s son reportedly contacted Suffolk County legislator Thomas Barraga seeking his input on his mother’s accident. Barraga’s response? “No one in Suffolk County should ever ride a bicycle” because “Suffolk is a suburban automobile community.” Barraga also reportedly advised against running in the street and suggested that runners and bikers go to the gym instead of using bike lanes.
Folks,this type of thinking needs to end! It’s legally inaccurate. It generates the potential for road-rage incidents. And, it is just plain dangerous. Contrary to the position espoused by Mr. Barraga and others, our public streets are not reserved for the exclusive use of automobiles and motorized vehicles. The simple truth is that the roadways are “shared use” zones. Cyclists must abide by the same rules-of-the-road which govern motorists. However, so long as they do, cyclists have the same rights to be present on the roadways as any car.
Motorists need to accepts this reality and extend the same rights and courtesies to cyclists as they would to another motorist.