Bleed American: One less car, one less bike

By Jennifer Kursman
Arizona Daily Wildcat
Tuesday, April 13, 2004

Did you know that in Tucson, you can be ticketed for speeding, even if you're riding a bike?

No, this isn't an arcane rule, like an ordinance in Toronto that prohibits riding a streetcar on Sunday if one has been eating garlic, or a Massachusetts law stipulating that citizens must take a full bath before going to sleep (although, upon second thought, perhaps those edicts should be enforced - scores of repugnant odors could be prevented).

No, the Tucson police actually prosecute for these little peccadilloes. A radar gun measured a Tucson cyclist's speed at 21 mph and, before you could say, "Are you kidding me?" he was arrested.

This particular cyclist was biking in a school zone, so he was traveling 6 mph over the legal speed limit.

It's not difficult to understand that schoolchildren would be safer if cyclists were not whizzing by their crosswalks.

However, part of the prosecution entailed adding several points to the cyclist's motor vehicle record, driving up his car insurance bill. Where's the logic in that?

Protecting the safety of schoolchildren is commendable, but Tucson police should remember to ensure the safety of bicyclists.

While bicyclists are killed by careless drivers every day, it is doubtful that statistics are even compiled for the number of pedestrians who suffer minor injuries from a biker-pedestrian collision.

If the police are going to punish cycling groups, such as Critical Mass, and enforce the speed limit of bikers, then how about following up on these rules: Cyclists under 18 without helmets pay $50 fines. Cycling after dark without a headlight and a reflector - $88.

I moved to Tucson from Detroit, home of the Big Three factories, the birthplace of Henry Ford's assembly line system, a city that revolves around the automobile.

Cars are the lifeblood and the economic powerhouse, dominating life in Motor City.

Needless to say, alternatives to motorized transportation are nearly nonexistent - the only other option is to take the bus, which is consistently late and perpetually haunted by a reeking stench.

Arriving at the UA, armed with my new green bike, I was amazed to discover white lines painted on the right side of nearly every street.

I began to notice groups of elite cyclists training together on Tucson's roads, taking advantage of our smooth, straight roads and mild winters.

A biker friend of mine told me that Bicycling Magazine ranked Tucson the third-most bike-friendly city in the nation.

This ranking intrigued me, so I surfed over to the City of Tucson's Web site to read more.

It turns out the ranking was based on "the city's average of 300 days of sunshine, a bicycle-friendly culture and a strong bicycle advisory committee."

Ironically and sadly, biker safety was relegated to the back burner - it wasn't even figured into the equation.

Tucson may be a mecca for racing elites, but if Tucson is to become a truly bike-friendly city, then biker safety must become a higher priority.

Several times, I have nearly been run over while traveling in the bike lane - not because drivers are on a mission to spill my guts, but because they're too busy answering a text message or fiddling with the radio.

In addition, the bike lanes are often littered with pieces of glass from broken beer bottles.

Debris prompts cyclists to either swerve into traffic to avoid a flat tire or risk a collision with cyclists directly behind them (by stopping to wait until it's safe to veer out onto the road).

Tucson police must become more vigilant at enforcing bicyclists' safety, but until they do, UA drivers should take responsibility for being extra careful.

Most people never imagine that the unthinkable - a fatal accident - could occur ... until it happens.

UA drivers must "expect the unexpected" and designate a trustworthy driver when alcohol comes into the picture.

Those bumper stickers that urge drivers to give a bike five feet - they're not just for decoration.

Jennifer Kursman is a biochemistry freshman. She can be reached at