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Your Safety / Part 2: Road Gods [update]

17 May 2012

Some drivers have a bad attitude: the pavement belongs to motorized vehicles only!

Part 2 in a series.

In a state where drivers are kings of the road, it made many of streets in the Lone Star state dangerous for cycling. The most notable case was that of Gregory and Alexandra Bruehler who were killed by a careless driver on 30 Sep 2009. The Bruehlers were riding a tandem bicycle on the shoulder of Texas 16 about three miles (4.8 km) north of Helotes when authorities said the driver of a Ford F-150 going 70 mph (112 kmh) in a 65-mph (104 km) zone veered off the highway and hit them. The couple left behind an 8-year-old daughter. A memorial service was held at St. John Lutheran Church in Boerne, TX on 6 Oct 2009. Cyclists most of whom did not know the Bruehlers joined the procession on their bikes outside the church to pay their respects to their fellow cyclists.

(A jury found the driver, 43-year-old Gilbert John Sullaway not guilty; otherwise, it could have been up to 10 years in jail.)

In June 2009, cyclists Anthony Cruz, 27, was killed on FM 476 in Atascosa County when hit by a pickup and Enriquez Castillo, 47, was killed on Nacogdoches Road when hit by a driver distracted with tuning the radio. Neither driver was charged.

By a non-partisan effort of Texas legislators, they presented Gov. Rick Perry the Safe Passing Bill (SB 488); he vetoed it. If the bill became law, it would mandate motorists to veer when possible or slow down when passing cyclists, pedestrians, construction workers, and stranded motorists. Already, there is a law that mandates the same effect for police officers and emergency personnel. According to the Texas Bicycle Coalition, approximately 50 cyclists are killed every year in the state of Texas. If the Safe Passing Bill were passed, it could save lives.

Perry's statement is as follows: "Many road users placed into the category of vulnerable road users already have operation regulations and restrictions in statute. For example, a person operating a vehicle being drawn by an animal is subject to the same duties as a motor vehicle, and a pedestrian is required to yield the right of way to a motor vehicle, unless he or she is at an intersection or crosswalk.

While I am in favor of measures that make our roads safer for everyone, this bill contradicts much of the current statute and places the liability and responsibility on the operator of a motor vehicle when encountering one of these vulnerable road users."

Brook Hollow—one of many streets in San Antonio to be off-limits for cyclists.

It's no question that aggressive drivers literally own the major pavements—not local governments as so stated by law. There are not enough police to patrol aggressive behavior; however, there are plenty of aggressive motorists. An officer who is on the Bulwerde Police force said that a few diesel pickup truck owners become frustrated at cyclists. Even though the cyclists are riding on the shoulder, they still cause traffic to slow down. As a show of frustration, diesel owners gear down and hit the gas as they pass the cyclists. The cyclists are hit with a cloud of black smoke. For non-diesels, drivers careen past the cyclists at a close distance which can lead to a fatal incident.

Actual bumper strip

Texas has laws that appear to favor aggressive motorists. It is a motorist's and cyclist's responsibility to move over and allow a driver who wishes to go faster to pass. This rule applies even to slower motorists who are going the speed limit. Since that major roads are literally owned by the aggressors, it's best to avoid them!

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