Spring is here and soon, all the kids who don’t have Xbox, Nintendo, the internet or other assorted electronic-static loading-tendonitis creating devices will be out on the streets riding their bike.
The law states that cyclists are to ride on the right side of the road which is with traffic. Most kids and adults alike do not like riding with their back to traffic, however. They like to see what is coming toward them. When they do ride on the wrong side of the road, some will pull off onto the shoulder when they see a car coming at them. Unfortunately, many will exercise their “right of way” and play chicken with the two ton vehicle approaching them.
The “pedestrian right of way” is a dangerous law. Many pedestrians and especially children are maimed or killed each year because they are taught as pedestrians they have the right of way over a vehicle. Whether they do or not, my parents taught me to stop, look and listen. Then look again, then look as I am crossing. When it comes to a 4,000 pound hunk of steel barreling toward me and my well-being, I’m gonna let the car go by without challenge and give up my legal right to stare it down.
A woman and her two year old child, in the city of Troy, NY, were recently killed when she exercised her right of way and stepped in front of a moving vehicle at an intersection. The city is now trying to figure out how to make the intersection more safe and are considering lowering the speed limit. Nobody is talking about attempting to educate people that the act of dueling with a car is a risky battle which could result in death. The right of way is a right I won’t risk my life on, unlike some people.
Anyway, there are two reasons for teaching your kids to ride on the right side. When a car is coming up behind you, the driver has more control over the situation because he can easily judge your speed and trajectory and, he can safely go around you. When you are facing him, you are adding a direction and speed that he can’t compensate for. Also, if your kid is facing oncoming traffic, he may see that the car is yielding to the center of the road and the child will most likely remain on the white line. This is very dangerous because now the driver is calculating oncoming traffic and your kid’s assertiveness and may try to squeeze between both cyclist and whatever is in the other lane. The driver certainly doesn’t want to risk a head on collision and being unlikely to slow down, he will risk the squeeze. Again, a child with his back to traffic is most likely to ride on the shoulder and this lemon squeeze situation will not present itself. An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.
The biggest reason to ride on the right side is because when a cyclist is riding on the wrong or left side, because he feels more safe when he can face traffic, a car pulling out of a driveway or side street whose intention is to make a right turn is not looking to the right. As he is approaching the main street he is concerned with traffic coming from the left. As your child is approaching from the right, the driver of the vehicle most likely will not see him, especially if the driver of the car is not coming to a complete stop and merely yielding to what is on his left. Your child, who knows he has the right of way will ride in front of the car while the driver is looking in the opposite direction. An unhappy union will occur if the driver doesn’t turn his head to the right in time to see your little soldier. If you don’t understand this explanation, get on a bike, ride on the left side and pull in front of cars which are turning right. You’ll figure it out real quick.
Of course any driver who runs over your child will be ticketed or arrested for manslaughter, but, take comfort in knowing that your child was exercising their right of way. Good for them for standing their ground.
You can’t take for granted that every driver is conscientious, aware of their complete surroundings or even paying attention. Teach children to stop, look and listen. And, never mention that they have the right of way. What they know, can hurt them.