The tragedy in St. Petersburg where several bicyclists were injured by an errant motorist rekindles the ongoing controversy regarding cyclists versus motorists' rights to the road. An article in the July 7 Times said that state law allows riders to ride two abreast. While this is correct, there are restrictions in the statute (F.S. 316.2065) that apply to two-abreast riding. The statute also states: "Persons riding two abreast may not impede traffic when traveling at less than normal speed of traffic at the time and place and under conditions then existing and shall ride within a single lane."
On two separate occasions in the past year, I have encountered large groups of cyclists while driving my car. In the first instance, I was driving on Keystone Road east of U.S. 19 in Tarpon Springs when I came upon a westbound pack of cyclists. It was a weekday around 9 a.m. The pack was three to four abreast and had caused a considerable backup of cars. When I got alongside the front of the pack, I asked (politely, believe it or not) why they weren't riding single file. The response was a combination of profanity and finger gestures. More recently, I observed a large group on Seven Springs Boulevard in Pasco County. This is a four-lane highway with a 55 mph speed limit. Again the riders were three to four deep into the lane and cars in that lane were required to slow until they could pull around the pack.
I am not suggesting that all cyclists demonstrate the same poor judgment and disregard for the rules of the road as did the ones in the preceding examples. Nor am I suggesting that the victims in the St. Petersburg accident were responsible for their injuries. I am suggesting that bicyclists may have the legal right to share the roads with vehicles, but common sense should dictate that perhaps riding on a busy, narrow roadway during morning rush hour while violating the two-abreast rule and the traffic impediment rule are bad decisions adverse to the safety of both the bicyclists and the motorists. Rights to the road are not rights someone should die for.
On the flip side, motorists should be educated on bicycle road rules and rights as well. I have seen impatient motorists make some gestures and use bad judgment when encountering cyclists who were operating legally.
MyFlorida.com provides access to the Florida Statutes pertaining to bicycle regulations. All motorists and cyclists should read them and obey them. Hopefully, knowledge and patience from both groups will prevent an accident similar to the one in St. Petersburg this past weekend.
Charlie Anderson, New Port Richey
Riding on roads designed for cars
The incident in which a motorist plowed through a group bicyclists prompted me to air a long-standing opinion: 30th Avenue N was designed strictly with the automobile in mind, not bicycles. Pinellas County spent hundreds of thousands of dollars (at the urging of many bicyclists) on the Fred E. Marquis Pinellas Trail. Hillsborough and Pinellas spent hundreds of thousands on the Freedom Trail, the old span of the Gandy Bridge, also at the urging of bicyclists.
What more do these people want? Can't they see the danger of riding on roads designed for automobile traffic? Or are they just spoiled brats who must have their way?
Allen Peck, Largo
This is about careless misuse of a car
We in the bicycling community are stunned and shocked at the events of Sunday morning. Our hearts and prayers go out to the riders and their families involved in this tragic accident. These cyclists did nothing against Florida law, which states that cyclists have the same rights as any vehicle on the road and must abide by the same laws as all other vehicles.
This isn't about the rights and privileges of cyclists. This is all about careless misuse of a car! The only meaningful right or privilege violated was the right to not be done in by someone's careless actions. The fact that it happened to people on bicycles is entirely incidental. This particular driver could have just as easily plowed into a school bus full of kids.
The driver, and a system that allows someone in his state to drive, bears the entire responsibility and blame. Any discussion of cycling deflects this.
The fact is that this group was on this particular road because it is a residential, light-traffic road. Also cyclists ride in large groups because there is safety in large numbers, usually. Florida law allows cyclists on the same roadways as motorists, so please be aware of cyclists on the road. Sure there are some cyclists who don't always follow the rules of the road, but there are also motorists who don't follow the laws.
We as cyclists need to be aware and follow the rules, and motorists need to be aware that cyclists are sharing the road.
In Florida we are fortunate to have the ability to ride our bikes year-round, and this is a factor in the high rate of accidents involving motorists. Fortunately the cyclists in Sunday's accident were wearing helmets and I am confident that saved lives.
Hopefully some awareness will come out of this tragedy and improvements will be made to make our chosen means of transportation and sport safer.
B. Addler, Revolution Bicycles, St. Petersburg
Cyclist arrogance is frustrating
Re: Car slams into 20 cyclists, July 7.
I read in your article that cyclists riding two abreast is legal, but from what I have seen the past three years in Lakewood Estates, Pinellas Point and from USF downtown to Fort DeSoto, cyclists take advantage of that. I can't tell you how many times I have become frustrated over the arrogance cyclists show in taking up entire lanes of traffic, even on two-lane roads. I would believe common courtesy would have cyclists go to single file if on a two-lane roadway, but no such thing.
I am sorry about this terrible tragedy, but if the cyclists had been in single file while there was traffic traveling on both sides of the road, would there have been as many casualties?
I cannot emphasize how much frustration I experience, because cyclists do not adhere to the two-abreast rule. Sometimes they are three to four abreast here on the south side of St. Petersburg. I hope this accident just makes those on these two-wheeled devices more aware of the large cars and trucks around them.
Bernadette Boudreau, St. Petersburg
Cyclists draw driver animosity
I read the articles concerning a seemingly heartless driver plowing through a group of cyclists and drivers' versus riders' attitudes. This stirs tremendous emotion in me. I'm a triathlete, like many of the cyclists in this community and around the country, and my wife was almost killed by a truck a couple months ago in Melbourne. The truck driver either didn't look or did not care that we were approaching before he pulled out of a parking area into our path while we were riding at around 23 mph on the road.
This is not an irregular thing. I ride and run on the road about every day and about every day someone is yelling some profanity at me and a number of cars try to play chicken with me. The drivers hate us, plain and simple.
Even if the cyclists irritate drivers, slow them down for a few extra seconds, or necessitate their providing a few extra feet of distance toward the side of the road while passing, does this give the drivers the right to kill or injure us?
Here is what I would say to them: Your wife or husband, parents, or son or daughter might one day choose to exercise by jogging or cycling. Would you want someone you love so dearly to be yelled at with filthy language and run over for this? No. Well, we are parents, children, and spouses and we do not deserve it either.
Paul Fleming, Palm Bay
Charges are in order
What is going on with the St. Petersburg Police Department? It is beyond comprehension why the police have not yet charged Joseph D. Pastore with attempted manslaughter in the running over of some 20 cyclists on Sunday.
As mentioned in Jeff Klinkenberg's article, For a cyclist, the ride rules (July 8), there is absolutely no way that the driver did not see the 30 to 50 cyclists who resemble a 100-meter multicolored caterpillar. As a late arriver on the scene, I, as well as anyone there, could plainly see that the driver did not attempt to stop to avoid the accident _ there were no skid marks.
Even if his actions were health related, he should have known not to drive after passing out in his car on Friday, as mentioned in Monday's article. Above all, his lack of remorse for his actions is sickening. This individual should not be allowed behind the wheel of an automobile ever again.
James Darlow, St. Petersburg
Use the Pinellas Trail
Re: Car slams into 20 cyclists.
I am very sorry to hear about these riders' injuries and my heart goes out to them. They have a long recovery time ahead of them and I wish them luck.
I do have a question: Why don't they use the Pinellas Trail? Isn't that what it was built for? To give bike riders a safe place to ride? I don't want to sound mean, but the bottom line is just this, if they had been on the trail this would not have happened.
I have been caught behind these riders a number of times. Every time I have encountered them they are most certainly not riding two abreast. They take up the entire lane and, yes, this is dangerous.
Bike riders say that the drivers need to look out for them, and we should. However bike riders need to understand that they are subject to the same traffic laws the car driver is. This includes actually stopping for stop signs and traffic lights, paying attention to the signs, riding on the correct side of the road, etc. I have had to slam on my brakes more than once for a biker who had disregarded the traffic laws.
This would also be a good time for parents to explain the rules of the road to their kids. I do not know if bike safety is taught in the elementary schools, but it should be.
Michael Souza, Largo
An accident waiting to happen
Although my heart goes out to those who were injured in this unfortunate incident, I have to question the logic of so many cyclists traveling together on a narrow, two-lane residential street with no bike lane. So much for "safety in numbers." This sounds like an accident waiting to happen.
I applaud bicyclists for their commitment to the environment and can empathize when they complain that motorists don't acknowledge them. But it needs to work both ways. Why couldn't this group have met at one of the entrances to the Pinellas Trail? Even at Fort DeSoto, which has a wonderful bike path, bicyclists will bunch up two and three abreast on the roadway and overlap into traffic. It's often impossible to veer out of their way without going into the lane of oncoming traffic. The other option is not to go around them and slow up traffic for blocks. And then they get furious when we try to avoid them: I've seen many a middle finger from these noble individuals just because I passed them.
Bicyclists can't have it both ways. Either stay off the road (or remain on designated paths) or obey the same rules that motorists are expected to obey _ including keeping up with the flow of traffic on roads with designated speed limits.
Sharon A. Henry, St. Petersburg
Time to give up driving
Re: Car slams into 20 cyclists.
I hope driver Joseph D. Pastore wakes up enough to realize that it's time to give up his driver's license. Let's hope he has the class to announce his driving retirement and an apology to those who were injured.
Gene Hardage, St. Petersburg
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