In our opinion: Police escort

Paved shoulders and bike lanes have been talk for 20 years in Kitsap County in an answer to the dangers cyclists face when pedaling down the black top along with cars.

A few miles of paved road shoulder here, a few there, including the paving of Clear Creek Trail from Silverdale to Trigger Avenue is a step, albeit it a small one, in the perceived correct direction.

With no consistent “safe” road shoulder routes in the county, cyclists of all stripes go out every day and ride to work and for exercise anyway. Why they do it in the face of angry drivers, though a valuable question in general, does not explain the daily interaction in Kitsap County drivers who charge, swerve at and crowd cyclists – in violation of state laws.

There are plenty of horror stories in Kitsap County of avoidable “accidents” that have killed some and sent others to the hospital .

Daily, drivers in Kitsap County seem to think hitting someone with their passenger mirror is acceptable. It’s a special urge seemly reserved for cyclists. Drivers don’t intentionally run motorcyclist  off the shoulder, they don’t often charge walkers and joggers along the side of the road. But for some, these drivers feel the need to assault cyclists.

The real danger is that a non-cycling community would lay equal blame on the rider as on the driver that hit them, simply because the rider was on the road. Unlike many editorials already written regurgitating the obvious and asking state, county and city leaders for paved shoulders and bike lanes to solve the problem – which are indeed much needed engineering improvements.

We chose to  side-step the obvious and instead say the greatest effort to make safe the roads of Kitsap County is full enforcement of traffic laws by the sheriff’s deputies and the city police of Bremerton.

A few aggressive drivers convicted for assault or manslaughter after running their passenger-side mirror just a little closer, or swerving at a cyclist, would go a long way to making the roads safer for the cycling community just as increased DUI enforcement in the 1980s and early 1990s removed from the streets many of the chronic drunks and improved life for everyone traveling the roads.

Of the 39 highway sections closed to cyclists in the state, none are in Kitsap County. There is no public roadway in the county where cyclists don’t belong or have the right to be. According to state laws, cyclists have the right to that lane, which most don’t take, and all the rights and responsibilities of a vehicle driver.  There is no state provision allowing drivers of cars and trucks to nudge or force a cyclist off the road at will or under bad temper. The act is assault at minimum.

The 2001 Kitsap county bicycle facilities plan said “safety” was the number one reason county citizens don’t leave behind more cars for bikes. It also called enforcement of laws and regulations, but only called for education  for pedestrians and cyclists. Drivers should be included too. hat same report

The majority of riders surveyed by Kitsap County 10 years ago said the county was “deficient on safe facilities for bikes and pedestrians.” They’re saying the same thing today. And though shoulders are a nice place to ride without impeding traffic flow, cyclists already have the right to choose the shoulder, when one exists, or use the regular travel lane as they see fit. The right to commute, the right to exercise and the right to simply ride.

Police should protect and enforce that right.

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