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bike accident

Some Common Sense on Cycling

If you listened to this week’s Conservative Refuge Radio, you heard me talk about the recent changes to the policy regarding cyclists using the Hatem Bridge in Northeastern Maryland. I have been covering the issue of the increased use of public roadways by cyclists for years from the efforts of cyclists to manipulate media coverage, to cyclists lobbying federal, state and local governments for expenditures of tax dollars to fund the growth of  their preferred form of exercise, the documented rise in injuries and hospitalizations due to increased interactions between cyclists and motorists, the efforts to promote “cycling tourism” and interstate bike trails over existing surface roads. In every case, I have tried to promote an honest policy discussion about the negative effects of public policy encouraging more bicycles on roads with cars and trucks. I summarized my views in the phrase “probability and physics“.

This week I related three tragic stories of cyclists killed on the roadways. In some cases, the motorists involved were at fault and may have acted criminally. In others, a physical mistake or breakdown by a cyclist caused a tragic consequence.  In each case, I lamented that these headlines are becoming more and more common and, as documented in peer review medical literature, that serious injuries due to cycling are already increasing at an alarming rate.  In response to my expressions of concern, I get tweets like this from cycling enthusiasts:

The vitriol of cyclists notwithstanding, I sincerely believe that policies that encourage more bicycles on roads with more cars will result in more cyclists being injured and killed and that that is a terrible thing our public policy makers should seek to avoid.

Which is why I was pleased to hear that the Maryland Department of Transportation has curtailed access to the Hatem Bridge to cyclists. I discussed the issue when it was first announced that the Hatem Bridge, a decades old steel bridge which was never designed or equipped for cycling traffic, would allow cyclists to use it.  The move was prompted, according to reports at the time, by “cycling tourism” advocates that wanted to include the bridge on a route from DC to New York in which cyclists could commemorate the events of 9/11.

Well, two days after the Hatem Bridge was opened to bikes a cyclist was injured and hospitalized.  No car was involved. The cyclist just hit a gap in the bridge and fell. This incident reinvigorated the concerns raised by local officials not just with regard to safety but impact on traffic, this particular incident blocked traffic for 20 minutes. Eventually, a senior enough official in state government realized what a mistake the Hatem Bridge policy was and ordered it changed.

It was a step in the right direction if only a small one.  The incident does show, however, why any true balance of interests in developing policy has to include the public safety of cyclists themselves.

 






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