Viewpoint: Bicyclists share responsibilities like motorists

By Robyn Sanders

A few weeks ago, I was in my car, stopped at a red light at University Parks and I-35, when this guy on a bicycle sailed past me and went straight through the middle of the intersection while the light was still red.

I was extremely startled that he didn’t seem to show any hesitation to riding through a red light at the intersection of a major highway’s frontage road and a major Waco street.

Fortunately, there weren’t any cars coming when the bicyclist went through the intersection, so he was fine. But when the light turned green, there was very nearly an accident because another car almost forgot to stop at its red light.

I couldn’t help thinking. What if that car had actually run the light when the guy on the bicycle was in the intersection?

If a 2-ton car was in a fight with a 20-pound bicycle, I definitely wouldn’t bet on the bike.

Since then, I’ve watched bicyclists at the stop signs on and around the Baylor campus, and I’ve come to a startling realization: most of them don’t stop.

I don’t get it. As a driver, you (hopefully) wouldn’t run a four-way stop, and as a pedestrian, you wouldn’t step out into a street with heavy traffic. So why would you do it on a bicycle?

Remember that driving handbook we all got from the DMV or when we took driver’s education? I opened it up on the Internet and looked under the bicycles section. It reads as follows:

“At intersections, right-of-way rules apply equally to motor vehicles and bicycles.”

“A bicycle is a vehicle and any person operating a bicycle has the rights and duties applicable to a driver operating a vehicle”

“A bicyclist should always obey all traffic laws, signs, and signals. Never ride opposite the flow of traffic. Stop at all stop signs and stop at red lights.”

Don’t think I’m hating on bicyclists. I ride my bike to class too. It’s quicker than walking and much more convenient than driving, except in the rare cases of rainy, icy or snowy conditions. Not to mention it saves me about $250 by not buying a parking sticker. But just because it’s easy, and tempting, to ride through stop signs and red lights when it looks like no one’s coming doesn’t mean we should.

We all need to be more attentive of our surroundings, motorists and bicyclists alike. I’ve already seen a handful of bike collisions and near-misses on campus, and it’s rare not to see a report of a car accident somewhere on the evening news.

When I was 16, I caused an accident with my mother’s car because I wasn’t paying attention. I was lucky. No one was hurt and my parents didn’t kill me.

But the accident and the ticket I received gave me the wake-up call I needed. Paying attention while you’re driving, or biking, is not an option.

It’s true that being on the road is a risk. In 2010 alone there were a reported 6 million car accidents in the U.S. But we are all capable of lessening that risk by being more aware of everyone on the road and obeying traffic laws whether we’re on two wheels or four.

Robyn Sanders is a junior journalism major from Corpus Christi and is a reporter for the Lariat.