When it comes to the road...cars rule. As much as Colorado boasts being "bicycle friendly," the fact is that the laws favors our four-wheeled friends. I learned this lesson the hard way today, when Officer Friendly* of the Castle Rock Police Department politely explained why I was lucky he didn't cite me for "failure to yield" to the car that I so rudely crashed into on Saturday.
*Names have been changed to protect the identities of those who protect and serve.
It's an important lesson for all cyclists, so thought I'd share what I learned:
First, every cyclist knows that bicycles have to follow the rules of the road, just like all other vehicles. As Officer Friendly graciously clarified, it was my responsibility to yield to the car turning in front of me, just as I would if I had been driving a car. I get that. However, apparently cars and trucks don't have to treat bikes like other vehicles. For example, cars can pass us on a residential street and turn in front us without yielding -- even though we are in a designated bike lane. I don't get that.
Second, a bike lane is not really a traffic lane. A car turning across a bike lane has no obligation to check to make sure that lane is free of bike traffic. However, if a bike wants to turn left across a lane of traffic we must, of course, check to make sure that lane is clear. In other words, if I had passed the car in the bike lane, signaled, then turned left in front of the car, I would have been at fault when the car ran over me. I get that. But if the car passes me and turns right in front of me causing me to crash, I am at fault. I don't get that.
By the way, according to the police report (above) there was only one "vehicle" involved in this accident. So, is a bike a vehicle or not? Not...according to the report. Apparently we are both "Traffic Units" (TUs) but not all traffic units are created equal. This seems like a vehicular double standard.
I don't harbor any ill will towards the driver and certainly don't blame Officer Friendly. As he courteously reminded me, his job is to enforce the laws as written, and those laws, at least in Colorado, don't favor cyclists. The bottom-line is, regardless of who was at fault, I'm the one sitting around with my right arm in a sling. In a car vs. bike collision the car always wins. So the only real rule to follow is: let the bicyclist beware.
On a lighter note, my favorite part of the accident report is found in the final lines of the accident description: "TU1 (me) struck TU2 (the car) in it's front right driver side door, mirror and bumper (it was actually the passenger side) with its front portion (my left knee). This caused the rider of TU1 to fall its bicycle [sic]. TU2 remained on all four wheels (wouldn't it be a great story if I had knocked the car over on its side!)."
Somehow Officer Friendly's sterile description just doesn't capture the drama and violence of my body hurtling through the air, crashing to the ground shattering my collar bone and skidding across the pavement! Somebody needs to teach these guys a little creative writing.