Can’t we just all get along?

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I’m glad to see the Carmel City Council finally addressing the bicycle problem on the Monon Trail. As regular trail users can testify, “serious bikers” regularly create close calls when they breeze past walkers, joggers, dog-walkers, children and casual bikers. Personally, I don’t consider this a huge problem. We all love the trail, but we must work together to insure no one is hurt. Casual users need to realize that the serious bikers have just as much right to use the trail as the rest of us. The serious bikers need to realize that new users may not understand they are to keep to the right, as when driving. And let’s face it, dogs don’t understand the rules of the Monon. So while their owners are obviously “in charge” of keeping them in line, when a dog darts across the trail to chase a rabbit, it could care less if a biker is speeding toward him at 20 miles per hour.

My issue with the serious bikers is that I wish they would use the Monon more often, not less. I’d much rather deal with the occasional close call on the Monon than the terribly unsafe presence of bicyclers on our busy streets. I realize bikers have as much right to use our streets as drivers, but let’s use some common sense here. While I’m not expecting miracles, I respectfully submit Andy’s Common Sense Rules For Carmel Bicyclers Who Insist On Using Our Streets:

 

1.    If you’re riding to and from work, that’s one thing. But if you’re merely exercising, please stay off main thoroughfares during rush hour. You’re all physically capable of using neighborhood streets. Yes, you will have to look out for kids playing in the streets, but hey, you’ve basically managed the Monon Trail. I think you can manage our neighborhoods.

2.    Don’t use those awkward “left” and “right” arm signals. Nobody knows them anyway. Just point to where you’re turning. We’ll understand.

3.    Stop at stop lights and stop signs just as you do when you drive. But do us a favor, and don’t use an entire lane for yourself. Squeeze over to the side, so the drivers behind you know you won’t keep them from passing you once the light turns green.

4.    And most importantly, where the city has provided a bike path, USE IT for cryin’ out loud!  Think about Hazel Dell Parkway, for example. There are wide bike paths from the wastewater treatment plant all the way up to the Kroger store at 146th Street. Don’t hold up traffic riding on the street when these paths exist, in part, to get you and your ilk off the streets. Yes, others use these bike paths too, but they are not nearly as crowded as the Monon Trail. Your safety is put at far greater risk riding on Hazel Dell Parkway (especially during rush hour) than it is when you share a bike path with the occasional dog on a leash.

 

I’ve always viewed government regulation in this manner: If you’re placing your own, and only your own, safety at risk, I don’t care. But the minute you place the safety of others at risk, then you must be stopped. This is why I don’t support the mandatory use of motorcycle helmets. If you’re in an accident, and your brains splatter all over the road, hey you’re the one who didn’t think a helmet was necessary. To this day, I don’t understand why seatbelt use is mandatory. It’s certainly a smart idea, but why do I care if you prefer to take your life into your own hands every time you drive.

Now, if you choose to ride your bike on our city streets during rush hour, by contrast, you’re not only endangering yourself, but you’re endangering all those drivers who must squeeze into one lane to work around you. I believe the City of Carmel should require that bikers use the wide bike paths when and where they have been provided.

Again, I don’t expect much traction on this issue. After all, the State of Indiana still makes children walk to school and/or wait for buses in pitch black darkness most of the school year, but so far refuses to petition the USDOT to place the entire state back into the Central Time Zone. And the State of Indiana still makes us go to restaurants and bars to drink on Sundays – which results in potentially drunk drivers using our streets to return home. So apparently safety is not much of a concern around here. I guess we’ll all have to learn to use our streets together. But it sure would help if you bikers would use those bike paths!


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