By Pamela Markey
I have finally come to the reality that in Missouri, perhaps all states, need to require that all bicyclists who ride on city streets should be licensed to ride their bicycle. While a riding test is not practical, a written test in the knowledge of safe bicycling riding skills should be required.
Frankly, I am tired of bicyclists – I use the term cautiously – who are clueless of traffic laws or cars that are behind them. I am a former recreational bicyclist, and let me tell you, it is dangerous bicycling on city streets.
Recently while driving west on Lexington Avenue in downtown Independence, I followed man riding his bicycle. He was totally oblivious to the fact there was a car behind him. This man broke every law and every safety rule. First, a big no-no, he had flip-flops on. Next he had on blue jeans, another no-no. Flip-flops are not sturdy enough to pedal a bike, and the legs of jeans can get caught in the chain. He did not have a helmet on.
Next, he was weaving all over the center part of the street. I had no idea where he was going or if he was going to turn. Finally, he turned right on to Liberty Street, neglected to stop at the stop sign, and did not signal. He is so fortunate nothing bad happened with his inattentive and erratic cycling.
About two weeks ago, while driving east on Truman Road and at the intersection of Truman and Union, a northbound bicyclist arrived at the stop sign and chose not to stop and wait for the cross traffic to clear. While I saw him, I was surprised at what he did. He did not stop at the stop, but pedaled right into traffic and yelled at me, saying he had the right of way because he was on a bicycle. He is ignorant of all vehicle laws. All bicyclists have to obey the same laws as drivers of motorized vehicles. His ignorance of bicycle safety could have had a tragic ending.
On a Friday night in Blue Springs about 9:30, there was a bicyclist on Missouri 7 in the bike lane. He was pedaling north of I-70. He was wearing dark clothes and had no light reflectors on his bicycle. He did not a have headlight or wear a helmet. The bicyclist I was following was almost invisible. This is another example of poor bicycling skills.
The other bad area in Independence is 23rd Street between Noland Road and Missouri 291. People on bicycles are constantly riding against traffic. This is a bad thing. First, it surprises drivers, and second, it is illegal. In addition, many preteen boys ride on the 23rd Street going the wrong direction in dark clothing after dark. Where are their parents? Why are these kids out at night on their bikes riding in the dark?
Bicyclists should never ride on sidewalks. People driving cars do not expect bicyclists to be on a sidewalk, especially where cars are constantly turning in and out of businesses.
I would like to urge that police start ticketing bicyclists for infractions of the law. I would like to urge the Missouri legislature to consider requiring all bicyclists on city streets, county roads and other roadways be required to take a bicycle safety course to learn the rules of the road. After completion of the course, a license would be issued. This course and test could be done online.
More and more cities and towns are putting in bicycle lanes. Unfortunately, most people who ride their bicycles for transportation are completely ignorant of the rules of the road when it comes to riding a bicycle. They ride the same way as they did when there were children, recklessly and carelessly. Educating the pubic on bicycle safety and traffic laws would prove to be beneficial to everyone.