Monday, December 28, 2009

Myopia strikes AAA's Westways Magazine

Dear Westways,

My family has been members of AAA for over 48 years. We drive cars, and not only that, we occasionally find ourselves identifiable as pedestrians and bicyclists. It was with great interest that I picked up the latest issue of Westways and read Peter Bohr's article, Sharing The Road. In it, I found many puzzling, disturbing and incorrect statements:

1. The illustration accompanying the article features a cyclist holding a phone with one hand heading straight toward a crosswalk filled with pedestrians, apparently walking against a red light. What message is this illustration trying to convey?

2. What evidence does the author have that "cyclists often ride on the wrong side of the road"? LACBC's recent bicycle count in Los Angeles shows a very low incidence of this activity.

3. Cyclists often proceed at a red light because the light only changes in the presence of an automobile. This is legal.

4. Sharrows are a good start, but dedicated bicycle lanes are a better solution for all. Does AAA support more dedicated bike lanes if it means losing lanes for automobiles?

5. A critical safety tip for bicyclists is to TAKE THE LANE. It is allowed in many circumstances, such as approaching an intersection, which reduces the chances of being right hooked or not seen by drivers turning left.

6. Riding single file is not a law! All vehicles, including cars should move to the right if they are moving less than the speed of traffic. There are many exceptions and Westways should make AAA members aware of them.

7. The author writes that drivers should give 3 feet of distance when passing cyclists, if possible. That's a very dangerous bit of advice. Instead, drivers should give AT LEAST 3 feet distance to cyclists when overtaking. If they are unable to, they should wait and pass when it is safe.

Let's be real, distracted and drunk drivers are the main cause of injury and death on the roads. Road rage is also an overlooked problem. Take the story of a doctor who was recently convicted of intentionally harming cyclists in Los Angeles. This much publicized crime would have been an excellent addition to the article. Why was it not included?

Westways could better serve it's readers with an unbiased analysis of the reasons that roads are unsafe for pedestrians and cyclists, in addition to drivers. AAA could be doing a better job educating their members and advocating for safer roads for all users. Safety should be the paramount goal. After all, every AAA member is also a pedestrian and a potential bicyclist. My father, now in his 80s, rides his bike many times a week. It's his personal fountain of youth. I ride my bicycle as often as I can, both for recreation and to run errands around Los Angeles. I mention this to reinforce the idea that AAA members are not just behind the wheel, and they deserve more than that single perspective in Westways.


The Engaged Observer

P.S. I am the guy riding in the illustration. What you don't see is that I am aware of all roadway users around me and making the safest decision I can, with full understanding of the laws governing the operation of vehicles on public roads. It's in my best interest to strive for zero incidents while I ride my bicycle, and I know it better than anyone else.