I enjoy bicycling. Therefore, I sympathize with Michael Eilers' commentary on Critical Mass bicycle rides ("Critical Mass rides are protests for respect," March 31) and with Critical Mass riders. I also sympathize with the concern that bicyclists use productive, legal and safe behavior. And as much as I enjoy overtaking a line of motorists stopped at a red light while on my bicycle, when I'm in my car, I do not like having to yield to anyone. Damn it, I want to own the road. But, I sense that most everyone else does too.
To ensure some sort of order among our whirlwind of egos, and in this case to ensure orderly yielding on our roads, we have decided that elected representatives will enact laws, then they will enable administrative agencies to enforce those laws. If they can utilize and act within the Arizona bicycling laws, I believe that the Critical Massers can make a public statement with safety, legality and productivity.
Arizona Revised Statute (ARS) 28-812 grants bicyclists all the rights that motorists enjoy, but it also imposes the same duties. So Critical Massers, (and all the rest of us cyclists) obey traffic laws no matter temptations otherwise: don't zig-zag back and forth to take up the whole right lane. ARS 28-815 (B) states, "Persons riding bicycles upon a roadway shall not ride more than two abreast except on paths or parts of roadways set aside for the exclusive use of bicycles." In other words, we can ride side by side. ARS 28-815 (A) states "A person operating a bicycle . shall ride as close as practicable to the right hand curb or edge of the roadway, except . (3) if reasonably necessary to avoid conditions including fixed or moving objects, parked or moving vehicles, bicycles, pedestrians, animals or surface hazards. (4) If the lane in which the person is operating the bicycle is too narrow for a bicycle and a vehicle to travel safely side by side within the lane."
On Critical Mass rides, ride side-by-side in two single file lines. You have the absolute right to do this. Since the riders must stay "as close as practicable" to the right hand curb or edge, do it. To me "as close as practicable" means the behavior of experienced riders who often ride in the space where a motor vehicle's right tire would set on the road. Why? Two safety reasons: 1) to avoid the rough road unsmoothed by constant friction and to avoid the trash that accumulates there that could cause tire puncture or rim damage or an accident, and 2) to force motorists so far left that they can't squeeze past in the lane thereby increasing the chance that the cyclist will get run off the road. Under ARS 28-815 (A) (3-4) we cyclists can use this procedure.
Furthermore, on Critical Mass rides, do not ride down a road with a bike lane (like Speedway near Campbell where the April 7 arrests occurred). If a bike lane exists, motorists can not use it (ARS 28-815 (C)) but bicyclists must. The point is to show force within the law. Within the law, bicyclists can ride side-by-side, as close as practicable on roads within bike lanes, I suggest eastbound Fifth/Sixth Street during the afternoon rush hour. This will take up the whole right lane for bicyclists, yet they will remain in the law. The motorists won't like it, but they will be forced to acknowledge the law and they can complain to their legislators.
In short, respect the law Ä it's what our legislators have chosen to consider safe behavior. Forget civil disobedience, a sometimes (but not in this case) necessary breaking of the law. Forget parade permits, an official exemption to the law. Critical Mass riders can achieve their purposes by using the law to their advantage. And acting within the law, they won't get arrested Ä I hope.
Mark W. Hanning
Second-year law student
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