Rules of the Road

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The cops in Biltmore Forest are on the rampage again.

I say this after a friend of mine was given a $180 traffic citation for not getting off of her bike at a stop sign. She was on her way to work—riding her bike rather than driving her truck. She saw the police officer, so she made certain to stop at the sign, executing a track stand before pedaling through the clear intersection.

The hypervigilance on behalf of the police officer is due to a recent episode in which a cyclist was paralyzed. Apparently the cyclist t-boned a car that was pulling out of a parking lot and into the street near the country club. I haven’t seen the police report, but rumor has it that she was on the cell phone, and the cyclist was coming out of a blind curve. Now that the cyclist is looking for compensation, Biltmore Police assume the cyclist was exceeding the speed limit. As a result, they are cracking down on all bike activity going through the neighborhood.

Here’s the thing about stop signs; a driver approaching the intersection is paying attention to stopping the vehicle and then looking for traffic. This process occurs in approximately 10 seconds and begins from a few yards away from the actual intersection. A cyclist begins braking long before the intersection, allowing a long look through the intersection for other vehicles. The process can take more like 30 seconds, offering a long view of what’s to come. If there isn’t any traffic, it’s best to bust on through, because a car can pull up pretty quickly.

A good cyclist will stop, but remain on the bike so that the intersection can be quickly cleared—especially if there is another vehicle approaching from another direction. The guy in the car will be pretty annoyed if he has to wait for a cyclist, who has reached the intersection first, to dismount, remount, and begin pedaling before he can even begin to go through.

As a cyclist it’s best to always be prepared to get out of the way. That can’t be done when you’re standing over the pedals, rather than on them.

I thought that a stop sign was to make sure everybody was aware of a traffic pattern involving other vehicles, and that the goal was to get through quickly and safely. This officer is making it seem as though the important part is not safety, but literally following a set of physical steps.

There are places throughout the county where cyclists are not safe from emotionally charged debates over bikes. I’m surprised that the “elite” Biltmore Forest has become one of them.

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