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Saturday, February 28, 2015  |   Madison, WI: 14.0° F  
CITIZEN DAVE: Thoughts and ideas about city building from Madison's former mayor
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Citizen Dave: Bikes need to obey the rules of the road and of physics
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I am an excellent driver. When I come to a stop sign in my car I stop completely.

I'm also a pretty good cyclist. I stop at stoplights. I don't weave in and out of traffic. I stick to my lane. I signal left and right turns. But when I come to a stop sign on a residential street, I slow way down, I look both ways, and if there's no traffic, I keep pedaling.

I am not ashamed to admit this, because while it's important that we follow the Madison General Ordinances we can't help but follow the laws of physics. It takes a lot of energy to get rolling again from a complete stop, and so as long as I'm going slow enough and I'm observant, I'm not risking anyone's safety by rolling through a stop sign on my bike. Really, it's okay with me. However, if a cop is present, she might have a different point of view and telling her that I said it was all right will not result in leniency.

But if you're a cyclist, you know what I'm talking about. While our laws treat motor vehicles and bikes the same, they shouldn't. There should be much more onus on cars and trucks. If I hit a car on my bike, I'm going to mess up my bike and myself pretty good. I might dent the car. If I hit a bike with my car, I could very well seriously injure if not kill the cyclist. Driving a car means you are responsible for deadly force. Riding a bike doesn't.

So, we need to send strong signals that drivers have added responsibility to look out for bikes and pedestrians. And that should start with drivers' education. In some European countries, new drivers get extensive instruction in how to be careful around bikes and peds. For example, they are taught to open a driver's side car door with their right hand. That forces drivers to turn and look, reducing the dooring of bicyclists.

This doesn't mean that bicycles should be exempt from the rules. Not at all. Cyclists who flout the rules of the road aren't helping the cause. But to equate irresponsible driving with irresponsible biking is just to ignore reality. We need to put more responsibility in the hands of drivers, and that should start with a revamped drivers education program in Wisconsin.

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