2013-12-12 / Community

Cyclist’s death renews controversial debate

In the 40-year history of The Acorn, no topic in our Letters to the Editor section has elicited more passion and greater response than the car versus the bicycle debate. Everyone rides one or the other. Everyone feels righteous about their share of the road.

Sadly, the two modes of transportation aren’t always compatible. Last Sunday, tragedy resulted when a sheriff’s patrol car collided with a cyclist on Mulholland Highway in Calabasas. The bicycle rider, a 65-year-old man, was killed. The Lost Hills Sheriff’s deputy who was driving, a 16-year veteran whose name is being withheld, is being investigated.

Man-versus-machine encounters invariably occur as roads become more crowded. To keep everyone safe, pedestrians and cyclists need to understand their special responsibilities in traffic.

Proper bicycling involves more than wearing the appropriate attire and keeping a bike in good mechanical order—riders also must learn the rules of the road.

Bicyclists generally enjoy the same rights as a car or motorcycle but, surprisingly, many bikers still choose to travel against traffic, not with it. As a rule, cyclists must ride as if they were operating a motor vehicle.

As required by law, bikers may not leave the bike lane unless they can do it safely, and they must always use the appropriate hand signal for turns. If you’re on a bicycle you need to clearly communicate your intentions. Drivers aren’t mind readers.

On the other hand, drivers sometimes fail to yield when making right turns and often cut in front of bicycles. Nothing makes bicycle riders more irate. Drivers also fail to give riders a wide enough berth when cycles are forced to leave their marked lanes.

Cars don’t own the road, but neither do cyclists. They share it.

Now there’s a new rub. It’s called distracted driving and it raises the stakes even higher.

We’re asking that the deputy involved in the Calabasas fatality be investigated for distracted driving. If you think about it, there’s no driver on the road more prone to distracted driving than a cop in a patrol car with its many bells and whistles.

In order to shed light on the car versus bicycle safety discussion going forward, transparency in this investigation is paramount.

Our community has seen cars and bikes clash too many times. Whether you’re behind the wheel or behind the handlebars, make your own commitment to playing it safe. Someone’s life may depend on it.

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