Bike Riding Dad Shot in the Name of “Safety”

If you needed more proof that our society is a little wacky when it comes to kids and safety, get a load of this: A North Carolina off-duty fireman SHOT A DAD RIDING HIS BIKE WITH HIS THREE-YEAR-OLD IN A BIKE SEAT because the fireman thought the road was too busy for this kind of fun. He said he found the situation “unsafe.”

Guess in a way he was right about that. Here’s the story, sent in separately by a couple of Free-Range readers, Gyula Voros and Robert Freeman-Day,  who found it on BoingBoing.

You’ll be happy to hear that bike helmets — which Free-Range Kids endorses — saved the day: The bullet penetrated the dad’s helmet, but did not reach his skull.  (Not that that’s why we normally endorse helmets. But still…)  — Lenore

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68 Responses

  1. This hits close to home in two areas. First, being an avid biker the safest place to travel is with the flow of traffic (even if they are zooming past you). You can read about my exploits with sidewalk riding here: http://jaystile.wordpress.com/2009/06/25/rough-bicycle-commute-today/ Second, being a free range parent, I know I’m going to teach my children to ride with traffic and not the sidewalks and this kind of intentional crazy overreacting behavior has shown its face more than once in my experience and it’s scary. (But it is still safer and less frequent than the sidewalk with people walking their dogs, or walking two abreast, not paying attention, or having cars directly in your path)

  2. I would be careful about reading any moral into this story–about Free Range, about safety, or about anything else. Calling this nut case “an example of our safety-obsessed society” is like calling the Columbine killers “examples of high school students.” He’s just a dangerously insane person, end of story.

  3. I would be careful about reading any moral into this story–about Free Range, about safety, or about anything else. Calling this nut case “an example of our safety-obsessed society” is like calling the Columbine killers “examples of high school students.” He’s just a dangerously insane person, end of story.

    Yeah, exactly.

  4. If you read the comments on the story, many of them claim that it is unsafe for a kid to ride in a kid’s safety seat on the back of the bicycle (even if they have a helmet on).

    Now there’s safety obsessed for you.

    What i think is amazing is how much better our medical care is than even 10 years ago, and how paranoid we are expected to be about any kind of injury, especially to children. My dear friend wouldn’t let me give her daughter one of those bouncy ride-on balls when she was 4 for fear that the girl would fall over and bump her head. (My friend is much more relaxed now…)

  5. Really, it’s about the irony of the situation; “Stop doing that! It’s unsafe… I could shoot you”

    Guy sees and confronts person in ‘unsafe situation’

    Guy MAKES situation even more unsafe by lobbing lead around

    Thankfully the victim is okay, and the accused might get some help, but that doesn’t calm my Irony Meter.

  6. Ditto Kenny. This is quite the stretch to generalize this to anything but a crazy fireman acting stupidly or dangerously.

  7. WTF !?!?!
    just WTF

  8. What Kenny said.

    Also, I have to assume that the bullet was, thankfully, badly aimed. I’m not aware of any kevlar-containing bike helmets.

  9. *headdesk* Imagine, your father getting shot in the head, right infront of you. I hope that fireman is fired from his job and charged with murder. *so angry*

  10. According to a different news article, the bullet passed through the helmet, barely missing his head. The helmet did not stop the bullet.

    How could it? It’s just foam, designed for about 15 MPH impact. Doesn’t anybody watch Mythbusters ballistics
    tests?

    Here’s a great summary about how non-dangerous cycling actually is:

    http://www.bicyclinglife.com/SafetySkills/SafetyQuiz.htm

  11. I wish I could edit my last one to add: Yay! He was charged with first degree murder! Fucking idiot.

  12. As a formerly obsessed cyclist who rode every day, and I still consider myself an active cyclist (I just completed my 2nd Triple Bypass), there are many things I could say about this story, but one attached comment stood out on another report which, I think, plays into the child-safety-obssession that Lenore has focused on…

    “Traffic on that road is awful. Stupid, Stupid, Stupid. I am surprised the police haven’t already charged him with child endangerment for this. Traffic in Asheville is horrible and to put a small child on the road, unprotected save for a helmet is ridiculous. Those little carts offer no protection and a car could very easily run right over it, crushing the child and a helmet would do absolutely no good. I’m sure it would be fine for a leisurely ride thru a quiet neighborhood or bike park, but definitly NOT on public roads.”

    While I agree that in many cases, a helmet will make zero difference in an accident, the focus of the commenter is exclusively on the child, completely ignoring the safety of the adult which would also be in jeopardy if the *attached* cart is run over, going so far as to say the police were negligent in not charging the cyclist with child endangerment.

    Nevermind the fact that the fireman is clearly completely daft. A complete wanker.

    By way of correction, the helmet did not stop the bullet. Judging from the article, the bullet would have missed the man entirely. The helmet merely gave evidence of the shooting.

    FTA: “The bullet blew a hole through the outer lining of Simons’ helmet and went straight through both sides of it, but he was not hit.”

  13. Tunnel road in Asheville is a very busy windy road with lots of hills, in the middle of Asheville. So riding a bike there is probably not the smartest thing to do. However, the family has every legal right to be there, and they have the right of way. Technically, the lane they are in is theirs, and people just have to learn to slow down, and go around them as best they can.

    With hindsight, and the comfortable fact, that I can armchair coach this one, the family should have ridden off, and not gotten into an arguement with the man. They should have also called the cops while riding off…

    They should also learn to avoid crazy firefighters….

  14. For what it is worth. Here is another link to the story.
    http://www.citizen-times.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20090727/NEWS01/907270323

  15. I also stand corrected as the Dad did the right thing, and walked away from the situation.

  16. I am an avid cyclist and bike with my two kids. This story hit home, not because it is common (in fact it’s pretty darn out there!) but because of what it has revealed in those who’ve responded.

    1. Yes, this perpetrator was obviously violent and troubled. However, if you do read the comments (and think before you do – they can suck you sanity points) – you will see many do agree that this man “shouldn’t” have had his kid on a bike on this road. I’m sure most of those commenters aren’t the least bit violent. However the feeling of entitlement (especially in car drivers who don’t want to share with bicyclists) is basis for worry when it comes to accidents and deliberate intimidation by vehicle.

    2. Bikes ARE traffic and are meant to be on the road. Many more accidents occur when bikes employ sidewalk use. The key is for bikes to learn how to cycle properly, and for car drivers to recognize bikes as legitimate transport. For those interested in knowing more about safer cycling, I think this site is a good start: http://www.bicyclesafe.com/.

    3. Re: sidewalk riding. If you live in the United States the law varies from state to municipality, etc. In our state bikes are given license to bike on road (including the full lane), sidewalk, or bike path – whichever is safest. There are areas in my town of Hoquiam, WA where we must use the sidewalk. There are a few ways to cycle on the sidewalk safely – mostly involving cycling with traffic directions, and going SLOWLY – to watch out for pedestrians, driveways, etc.

    4. Teaching your kids “stay away from cars” is NOT teaching them bicycle safety. I am a Free Range Parent but I do pay attention to cars, one of the things I do worry about a bit. Our many hours of riding and discussion while we do ride likely will make my children safer than most – both on bikes and later when they drive.

    5. I do think the “helmets saved the day” comment could be stricken from the article here. It sounds like it was erroneous aim that prevented this man from being grievously injured or killed. My children wear helmets, but helmets are no substitute for safe riding, and for save driving by the vehicles we share our roadspace with. We need to stop talking about helmets only, and start talking about how to share the road safely and friendly.

    Thanks for sharing!

  17. David, your victim-blaming scares me. They weren’t that smart, they should have done this, they should have done that.

    The firefighter resorted to violent force and should be arrested and charged. End of story.

  18. I think the kicker is that this guy gets to go on PAID LEAVE!!! I know, there is probably some contract or something but come on – the guy who gets shot is paying taxes so that his assailant can make money my while on trial for his attempted murder. Talk about adding insult to injury…

  19. That is just crazy! I agree that this is not really about a “safety-obsessed society” since this guy must be a nutcase. What kind of person would decide to shoot someone they think is doing something unsafe? I am just glad that he missed. I get so sad hearing stories like this especially knowing that he is a firefighter (off-duty or not). This is supposed to be someone kids look up to, not fear.

  20. This news piece is unrelated to the FRK site, to kids and to concern for safety. This is pure and simple road rage. Keep it real people!

  21. Um, just have to say here that the firefighter can’t be charged with murder of any degree, as he didn’t actually succeed at killing someone. He is being charged with attempted murder, which is fitting. He is also on paid leave, which is outrageous.

  22. I’m pretty sure this if going to piss all of the cyclists off, but all I really have to say about this is that every road everywhere needs to have a bike lane added. While bikes may be a legitimate form of transportation and all, they cannot move as fast as cars. People in cars get pulled over occasionally because they are holding up traffic if they are traveling at less than the speed limit, so why are bikes allowed to hold up traffic for the same reason? Why should the car drivers be forced to slow to a crawl and then swerve partially into another motorists’ lane in order to go around the biker? A small part of the reason I do not bike is because I don’t like the idea of pissing off every single car that may come up behind me on the road.

    I’m not saying that the victim in this article was doing anything wrong, unsafe or stupid… just saying that perhaps the crazy fireman wouldn’t have chosen him as the target of his psychotic rage if there had just been a damn bike lane.

  23. Banshee, are you willing to ban on-street parking everywhere, including residential streets, to add bike lanes?

    Our city has bike lanes on about 10% of the road miles. That was the easy 10% where the space was already there. The next 5% are going to be difficult and expensive.

    Think about all the other ways you are delayed (traffic signals, rush hour traffic, the motorist in front of you waiting to turn, etc). Add up the minutes and tell us what percentage of your total delay is caused by cyclists.

  24. I think the helmet might have saved the Father’s life – by throwing the assailant’s aim off. So while it was a good thing that the father was wearing the helmet – saving his life isn’t something the helmet makers can take credit for.

  25. MikeOnBike, I’m not particularly fond of street parking either, so no it wouldn’t bother me to get rid of that.

    And of course the delays caused by motorized traffic is going to be a bigger percentage of the overall daily delays. Wanna know why? Because there are only a handful of people during my daily commute who don’t mind the idea of pissing off all of the car drivers on the road. If I lived in an area where there were a lot of cyclists I would either lobby very hard for more bike lanes so that I don’t feel like I have to make the choice between running them over or cutting into a lane where another car might hit me, or I would MOVE to get away from them.

  26. The child, btw, was 5, not 3, according to his grandfather. I’m not sure what my 2.5 year old son’s reaction would be to the situation, not really knowing what guns are. A 5 year old would be terrified.

  27. By the time the whole event is summarized in the news, it comes out sounding like what happened is this firefighter said to himself, “That man is being unsafe. Therefore, I will shoot him in the head.” I think the bizarreness and irony of that is what makes the story newsworthy. But,

    What probably actually happened is the firefighter was pissed off already about something, stopped and picked a fight with the guy, probably got more angry because the guy had the audacity to fire some verbal barbs back, got out the gun to show what a big tough guy he is, etc.

    So it’s just your general nutcase story and the fact that it started out having something to do with a kid on a bike is not actually all that relevant.

  28. Obviously, this fireman was crazy. There’s no questioning that. We all get mad, but the vast majority of us don’t react to those feelings by shooting someone.

    The way this relates to free range kids is that it’s another example of someone deciding what is best for another person’s kids. It’s a much more extreme example of people calling police or CPS because we are giving our kids some freedom, whether it is walking alone through the neighborhood, using a pocket knife, or riding on the back of our bikes.

    The point of free range kids is to raise our kids with some level of independence. If there weren’t an obstacle to that, there would be no need for a movement. But the fact is, these helicopter parents don’t keep to themselves. Many of them feel that they know what is best for everyone. This makes a deep impact on how we can raise our kids, through making snide comments, phoning the police, or working to pass unnecessary legislature regarding parenting decisions.

    I’m currently trying to get pregnant, and sadly, with each negative test I’m a little relieved that I won’t have to deal with everyone who will give me hell for raising free range kids. It’s a battle that I’ll have to fight constantly once I start. It makes me very, very sad to think that way, but it’s true, as I’m sure those of you who have kids can attest to. I think Lenore is trying to point us in the direction of making a change. She’s helping us to see just how much input everyone has (or thinks they have) in how you raise your kids. And that input is coming from a place of judgement and self-righteousness, not the need to help or create a community in which to raise children. That’s what we need to work together to change.

  29. Evidence of a clear case of mental illness. No matter what you think of the dad on the road cycling with his ***family***, there should never have been a gun involved.

    I just talked to a neighbor of mine who is in his early 60’s and the landscaper in our area. He told me he has asked the board of our homeowners association to give the kids something to do… like put up swingsets or a basketball hoop and all they could say to him was, “think of the liability! If anything happened, we’d get sued!” He mentioned just how kids now-a-days are less like children since they’re kept inside like caged animals…

    If so many people would lay off the caged animal theory for kids, this guy could have ridden down the street with his family, doing a healthy activity, with motorists moving over to give them a little room and slowing down for two seconds as they passed. But… our kids need to be in a speeding vehicle to be safe since all the rest of us have somewhere we need to be at this very second.

    And people have the audacity to wonder why they’re fat and their kids are **symptomatic** of ADD. Let’s yell at the people living life in a manner inconsistent with the little-to-no activity that everyone else has accepted. Friggin’ shame.

  30. Banshee, you make it sound like “changing lanes to pass slower traffic” is some sort of advanced skill, or an imposition on you as a driver.

    Do you have the same problem with buses, trucks, people preparing to turn, or any of the other myriad reasons why somebody might be going slower than you?

    You realize the posted speed limit is a maximum, not a minimum, right?

    If slower traffic (bikes or otherwise) makes you that angry, maybe you should rethink your approach to driving on public roads.

    George Carlin said anyone going slower than you is an idiot and anybody going faster than you is a maniac. I guess that makes me the idiot and you the maniac. 😉

  31. Kelly,

    I just stated they should have walked away, which is what the victim did. The best way to avoid any conflict is to walk away. Which is what I am going to do now.🙂

  32. MikeOnBike, I do not have a problem with all slow traffic… well, no more of a problem than most people have when they’re stuck in traffic that is moving at 5mph on an interstate with a speed limit of 65 and there doesn’t seem to be any reason whatsoever for it. My problem is with people who are not in/on any sort of motorized vehicle travelling in the road so that if I want to go faster than they are I have to either pull into the left lane, if there is one, which could take ages because everyone else is doing so the second the right lane slows down and therefore there are NO OPENINGS; or pull slightly into the lane of ONCOMING TRAFFIC. It annoys me that I have to pay more attention to the safety of cyclists than I do to the safety of any of the other traffic on the road. I don’t have a problem with the idea of looking out for other people in a general sort of way, but as far as I’m concerned the safety of perfect strangers should be equal, I should not have to put forth more effort for the cyclist than I do for the motorists around me, but since the cyclist is only protected by his/her squishy flesh and a foam helmet, I have to worry more about them than I do anyone else on the road. The cyclist could hit a divet the wrong way, swerve and fall over in front of me and if I run over them it would be my fault. Can that happen with someone in a car? No. Can that happen with someone on a motorcycle? Yes, but at least with them they aren’t slowing everyone around them down at the same time as being a huge freaking hazard to themselves and others. All I’m saying is that the bikers would be safer and the motorists would be less angry with the bikers if there were more bike lanes.

  33. Banshee said “It annoys me that I have to pay more attention to the safety of cyclists than I do to the safety of any of the other traffic on the road.”

    As a licensed motorist, you’re equally responsible for driving safely around everybody, including pedestrians, cyclists, people in cars smaller than yours, people who have a green signal when you have a red, etc. You’re equally responsible for the safety of your own passengers.

    Since motoring is so common, we easily forget what a grave responsibility it is to do it safely. We easily forget how potentially dangerous our vehicles are to everybody. We forget that the reason we need a driving license is because of the deadly consequences if we screw up.

    Of all the deaths caused by motor vehicles, cyclists represent about 2% of the total. You’re far more likely to kill another motorist or passenger.

    Please take a look at the cycling safety link I posted above. Cycling is not the risky activity you’re making it out to be.

    Ironically, the gunman would have been in a lot less trouble if he had run over the cyclist rather than shooting at him.

  34. I wasn’t trying to make cycling sound extra risky to the cyclist I was trying to make it sound extra annoying to all of the motorists and I originally was trying to make the simple statement that cyclists would be safer and motorists would be less annoyed with them if more roads had bike lanes. I really do not see what the problem with my original statement was. Bike lanes make everyone happy. No bike lanes means that people like me get irritated when they come up behind a cyclist because having to swerve around the cyclist puts us in potential danger as well as slows us down. No bike lanes also means that less of the people who want to bike actually get out there and do it I’d imagine, because they either feel unsafe or they dislike the idea of pissing off the motorists. I don’t have any particular interest in biking, but on the occasions when I have wanted to I have hesitated and/or used the sidewalk because I feel like I am in the way if I use the road. Why do I feel that way? Because I AM in the way if I use a bike on the road. Just because you are lawfully allowed to be there does not mean you’re not an obstruction.

  35. I’m wondering if the bike topic is venturing too far OT? Still, I can’t help but write more…

    Not every cyclist agrees bike lanes are the answer- this cyclist does not.

    MikeOnBike, thanks for making many good points, and I agree with all you’ve written.

    Banshee, I really can’t get my head around : “Yes bikes are traffic that has equal rights but they are a special kind of traffic that is an ‘obstruction’ and ‘gets in the way’.” Even if you see it that way, the law does not. “Just because you are lawfully allowed to be there does not mean you’re not an obstruction” is a sentence that makes no sense to me.

    You also wrote you don’t bike because you will be “pissing off every single car that may come up behind me on the road”. That’s funny. I bike daily, and I get a lot of friendly smiles and waves – and I give them back. Please check your baggage – not every motorist feels the way you claim EVERY car does.

  36. Yeah … Banshee, I sincerely hope you don’t live near me. I’m happy to share the road with bikes as well as to have the opportunity to bike on them, and absolutely expect cars to slow down as needed for a wide array of causes.
    For the record, I bike some (not as much as I should), including with my toddler (in a trailer, which I feel is the safest option for him right now; he’s 2).

    Speed limits are maxima, not minima. Bikes belong on the road. Many of us (note I don’t say all of us, because everyone’s situation is different) belong on bikes more often and in our cars less often, improving our fitness level, air quality, and community interactions all at once. I’m fortunate to live in an area (in NC no less) where most people recognize this.

  37. I would be careful about reading any moral into this story–about Free Range, about safety, or about anything else. Calling this nut case “an example of our safety-obsessed society” is like calling the Columbine killers “examples of high school students.” He’s just a dangerously insane person, end of story.

    Agree totally. Clearly mental.

  38. We have a joke in Australia: Why do we have America? It’s a place to keep Americans!
    You read the article and go “Was the Dad wrong or right to be cycling?” and then argue about bike safety. I read the article and go “The fireman (FIREMAN) was carrying a gun around?”
    Nice work USA.

  39. You do realize that posted speed is the speed you should be going. A ticket for 5 mph under is a lot higher that a ticket for 5 mph over. Most of the bicyclists in my area ride on the sidewalk but will move to the grass if someone is walking on the sidewalk.

    I just think this guy is crazy.

  40. This is bullsh*t!

    I’m Dutch, and as such I’m used to bike everywhere, since my country has molded its infrastructure around bicycle use. These past few months, I discovered to my amazement that riding a bicycle is considered ‘dangerous’ in other countries (especially the US) and in fact very few people ride a bike because they have to share motorways and are constantly harassed by motorists to get off the road. I’ve read so many stories about cyclists having abuse thrown at them together with cokebottles and other car debris by motorists who think they own the road that I cannot read this story without thinking that this is just more of the same. And then the b*st*rd is trying to make it look as if he was concerned about the kid’s safety? By shooting the kid’s father to whoms bicycle the kid is attached?! Yeah sure. Eggs to dollars that the filth didn’t even notice the kid and he just wanted to show ‘that yuppy treehugger to whom the road really belongs’.

  41. […] I… really don’t know *what* to say. Article found courtesy of Free Range Kids. […]

  42. OK, please tell me that I’m not going to have to define the word obstruction to you people… An obstruction is something which must be bypassed in order to get to your destination. Bikes are a lawful form of traffic, just like farm and construction equipment; however, also just like farm and construction equipment, bikes are not capable of traveling at the posted speed limit in most cases. They, like farm and construction equipment, BLOCK the roadway until the other traffic has the chance to go around them. The fact that other traffic finds it necessary to go around them makes them an obstruction regardless of whether they are legally allowed to use the road. How is this in any way hard to understand?

    And please, if you’re going to disagree with something, try to explain why. You don’t like bike lanes? Tell me why. What exactly is the problem with them? How do they in any way inconvenience you cyclists out there? How do they cause problems? I cannot think of any way that a bike lane is a bad idea, but according to you all I am wrong and they are a bad idea somehow. Well, if you’re going to tell me I’m wrong, please pump just a little more brain power into that statment and explain to me the reasons I am wrong. Otherwise you’re just picking apart what I’m saying in order to make it sound like I have no reasonable basis for anything I’m saying. Maybe I don’t. Personally, I think that both parties feeling safe is a reasonable thing to wish for, and as I have mentioned I do not feel it is safe to have to pull into an oncoming traffic lane in order to get around a biker that is in the way. As a matter of fact I believe that pulling over the middle line into the lane of oncoming traffic is kind of technically illegal, so why is it ok when there’s a bike in the way?

    Oh, and please don’t use the health argument. There are other ways to stay healthy than to ride a bike and just because someone prefers to drive a car does not mean that they are unhealthy or on a power trip. It has never crossed my mind to throw things at a cyclist, honk at them, threaten them with my vehicle or anything of the sort. I just get very nervous and annoyed when I come up behind one and I don’t see why I should have to feel that way when I’m driving. The nervous more than the annoyed. Plenty of things annoy almost everyone when they’re driving, but feeling nervous and unsafe? Despite being locked in a huge metal coffin of speeding death, I do not normally feel nervous when I am in a car and I don’t see why bikes should be allowed to make me feel that way when all it would take is about three feet on the side of the road designated as their own area to ride in.

  43. @Brigit: I’m not sure where you are, but in the US, the posted speed is the maximum. You can get a ticket for going over it, even a little bit, and you cannot get a ticket for going under the speed limit. Some highways have minimum speeds, but bikes are usually not allowed on those roads anyway.

    @Chris: Heh🙂 It’s not like our firefighters carry guns as part of their duty! He was just a guy who happened to be a firefighter… and apparently very mentally unstable… carrying a gun around… ah, yeah, never mind.😉

    Time to hop on my bike and go to work!

  44. @banshee: I’ll jump into the fray here a little bit, and say that I love the idea of bike lanes everywhere. I think people are arguing with your position because “all roads should have bike lanes” quickly becomes “bikes shouldn’t ride on roads without bike lanes.”

    Also, bike lanes can be unsafe if they are too narrow and situated between traffic and parallel-parked cars. Then it is difficult to avoid getting doored (a big deal at 20 mph) by people getting out of the parked cars.

    I don’t want you to be nervous when you encounter me on my bike, either. Believe me, the best drivers to bike around are the confident ones who know how big their cars are, see bikes and treat them as traffic.

  45. Thank you allison. I hadn’t thought about the hazard street parking could cause to bikes if the bike lane is between traffic and parked cars. However, like I mentioned before I’m not fond of street parking either. I do realize that it isn’t likely to be possible to get rid of most street parking, I’m just saying I don’t like it. And really, street parking presents a similar hazard for motorists as it would to bikes if the bike lane were between the two. It’s not cool to hit a door when you’re doing 20 mph on a bike, but it’s also not cool to hit that same door with a car. Especially if the person getting out of the car has already started to get out of it… I think that that particular hazard is probably a bit more of a concern for the biker because the person getting out of the car might be less likely to see the biker coming though, so thank you for pointing out a problem with my bike lane opinion.

    And, allison said, ” I think people are arguing with your position because “all roads should have bike lanes” quickly becomes “bikes shouldn’t ride on roads without bike lanes.” ”

    If this is why people are arguing with me I’d like to ask that they stop arguing with what they think I’m driving (heh..) at and argue with what I’ve actually said. I never said that bikes shouldn’t ride on roads without bike lanes, I just said that it annoys me when I come upon a bike riding on the road and I have to swerve into another lane in order to get around them. Changing lanes in order to avoid them bothers me much less than having to move partially into an oncoming traffic lane, which I think is perfectly reasonable. I mean, should I be comfortable with the idea of someone hitting me head on by mistake somehow because I had to go around a biker on the road? No, but I deal with it because, as I’ve acknowledged, bikes are a legal form of traffic. I just think that if they’re going to be exempt from the speed limit and cars are going to be exempt from some laws in circumstances where they’re passing a bike, then there’s no reason not to make things easier on everyone and try to equal things back out with more bike lanes.

  46. I live in an area with many cyclists, and in my town a proposal is being discussed which would put a bike lane on a stretch of the busiest road in town. It’s a major commuting route, and also has businesses along the street. I am opposed to adding the bike lane for many reasons, but the most significant (to me) is that we now have 4 lanes, two in each direction. Adding a 5′ bike lane each way would reduce the road to 2 lanes in one direction, and 1 in the other (the way I normally go!). So, heading westbound, instead of having two multi-use lanes that are shared by ALL traffic, we’ll have one lane for bikes only and one multi-use lane. (Yes, bikes will still need to get into the left lane sometimes – how else will they turn left?). I do NOT mind sharing the road with bikes (I do get annoyed at the ones that run the red lights that I’m rightfully stopped at in my car, but not everyone on a bike does that). But I think we need to share the road, not carve off a lane of it to limit to a small percentage of users. Without the second lane, how will I get around slow-moving delivery trucks? Cars turning? How hard will it be to get into or out of parking spaces, when I’m not allowed to drive in the right lane looking for a spot (and others don’t have a way to go around me while I do so)? And when we squeeze two lanes worth of traffic into one, I will be sitting in long backups while bikes zoom past because one of the lanes is just for them. Bikes ARE valid traffic like the rest of us, and while a small number of roads have a speed minimum (limited-access highways), our local streets do not.

  47. @Banshee: I too have been annoyed by cyclists going the wrong way (into oncoming), swerving into traffic, or hogging the entire lane on winding twisty backroads where it’s dangerous to pass them. I also don’t care for people in cars who fail to use blinkers, slow people, or any of the other delays MikeOnBike mentioned. I do get it, but as Pet Peeves it still falls under the “Too Bad” column.

    And bike lanes for every road sounds nice, but it’s not reality right now. And until it is, or until bicycles are no longer “vehicles” under the law, we’re all just going to have to get along.

    @MikeOnBike: you made very good points. From now on, I’m going to make an effort to be less impatient with all cyclists, even the ones “doing it wrong”, because when it comes right down to it, if we collide, THEY are the vulnerable ones, not me in my car.

  48. Re: Australian opinion

    I’m fairly sure the guy was not carrying as a firefighter, but rather as a civilian licensed to have a gun. Plenty of ordinary people have gun licenses and carry them about legally; the vast majority don’t go around shooting people. It’s unfortunate that someone unbalanced or with that little control over his temper managed to gain a position of trust and had it occur to him to get a gun license, but bad stuff happens. Heck, it’s sad that he got a driver’s license; but nobody can see the future, and he had every right to drive as a citizen of his state with no crimes standing in the way. From now on, his life will be different, and he probably won’t be allowed to do most of these things. Or vote, for that matter. Being a felon = loss of many rights and privileges.

  49. Re: bike lanes: Banshee, you said,”cyclists would be safer and motorists would be less annoyed with them if more roads had bike lanes. [ …] Bike lanes make everyone happy.”

    You are wrong, and when a few people point this out, you say you want information. I truly hate posting links and facts but you have specifically asked for them, so here goes:

    In fact for urban roads with many junctions, accident analysis suggests that segregated cycling facilities are likely to produce a net increase in the number of collisions. The reasons for this are complex, but they involve the fact that when sharing the road people behave better, and that the straight-on cyclists and drivers represent a tiny fraction of accidents, with turns being a huge component of collisions (as has already been pointed out, bicycle lanes pose a risk when it comes to left hand turns). This isn’t even getting into the parked car risk or the bicycle lane obstruction which is sadly rather common.

    From the Wikipedia article cited below: “Research presented at a conference at Lund University in 1990 found that “crash risk” for cycle users crossing the intersection on a set-back path are up to 11.9 times higher than when cycling on the roadway in a bike lane (see diagrams).”

    I know some people would like to believe, or they intuit, “Heck, just throw bike lanes out there and it will solve problems” but they are misinformed and incorrect, whatever there good intentions. If bike lanes aren’t safer, and they are expensive to employ… let’s at least agree to not invoke them as a panacea.

    The subject of bike lanes (or segregated facilities) is a fascinating one that has been argued by passionate people very informed and very eperienced than we here. By the way I got some of my facts from:
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Segregated_cycle_facilities

    @allison –

    “I think people are arguing with your position because “all roads should have bike lanes” quickly becomes “bikes shouldn’t ride on roads without bike lanes.”

    Yup, yet another reason.

    @Jenn –

    “And bike lanes for every road sounds nice, but it’s not reality right now. And until it is, or until bicycles are no longer “vehicles” under the law, we’re all just going to have to get along.”

    Exactly. Anyone reading my long overwinded comment knows that they don’t “sound nice” to me, but! Yes. We do have to get along. Your comment are exactly the kind of thing this cyclist loves to hear from motorists!

    @Marion – I just want to say there are many American cyclists who bike without undue harassment, and who love to bike and nothing will change that!

  50. I was reading the long argument about bike lanes and having to swerve into oncoming traffic to avoid cyclists. I am an avid cyclist myself and have a combined commute of driving and cycling to work. I live in the Pacific Northwest (specifically Redmond- cycling capital of the northwest) and I encounter many cyclists on roads with and without bike lanes. I have nothing against bike lanes (as I use them often and plan my route to try and go on as many of those roads as possible) but I don’t have any problem with cyclists on roads without bike lanes. Because our roads have a shoulder… and I thought that was pretty common. I have never had to swerve into the other lane to avoid a cyclist because they are on the shoulder, not in the lane. Where do cyclists ride elsewhere? the middle of the road?

  51. To all of you motorists irritated with cyclists: you’ve never slowed down to look for an address? Or to find a parking space? What about all the people behind you who were needlessly inconvenienced while you recklessly tried to find where you were going? Ever had a mechanical failure or tire blowout? This is the unspoken part of this narrative: if a driver is inconvenienced by an action that is necessary for the operation of another automobile, and something you will have to do yourself while driving at some point, it’s OK. Cyclists, however, are not part of the club. They aren’t going to have to brake so you can turn into a parking lot or stop to pick up a passenger, so who cares about them?(We do have to brake, actually, but the danger in not stopping is to us, not to the motorist). Cyclists require an accomodation that is not going to be reciprocated.
    I ride in downtown Toronto, with a very loud whistle in my mouth at all times. I occasionally have to look into the eyes of drivers while blowing the whistle continuously as I take my right of way (this works best when there are witnesses: people look when they hear the whistle, and I have found that people are far less likely to break the law and try and kill you if they are likely to be seen). We cyclists deal with vehicular intimidation all the time. Those of you who say that while you think the driver was nuts, but the cyclist shouldn’t have been there, even though he had a perfect right to be, etc., etc., you are apologists for someone who didn’t know or obey the traffic or gun laws. Is it because he is part of the “car club” and you fear that you might, under like circumstances, do something similar? (“I forgot the .44 Magnum in my pants pocket when I left the house, officer, and an irresistible impulse came over me…”) If so, send me your plate number, so I can avoid blowing my whistle at you when you cut me off. Otherwise, (and Banshee, I’m talking to you) maintain appropriate speed and distance (you wouldn’t have to swerve or slam on the brakes if you were paying attention and maintaining appropriate distance) when I’m cycling and if you can’t pass, slow down to my speed or stop, just as you would for a car waiting to make a left-hand turn on a two-lane highway (and as required by law in Ontario and most other places). And finally, remember that my tax dollars are paying a disproportionate share of the cost of the road you are driving on. I’m subsidizing you! (and yes, I own a car, and pay registration and gas taxes). It irks ME that my tax dollars are paying for people who would deny my right to use the roads in a safe and legal manner because it may slow them down or require them to pay attention. My rights to the road are equal to yours, regardless of my speed. The roads are a commons, and the law here is on the cyclist’s side. If you want to change the laws, political action is called for (and if you knew what hell we go through to get more bike lanes in Toronto, you wouldn’t blithely suggest having them everywhere). Until then, obey the laws (and perhaps learn the laws) and suck it up.

  52. “I would be careful about reading any moral into this story–about Free Range, about safety, or about anything else”
    Really Kenny? I feel more like this story is a real life metaphor for what happens when I expose my children to the judgmental public. The icy stares when I leave my kids’ too-wide stroller at the door of the Post Office while I zip 25 feet in to check my box FEEL like bullets banging into my metaphorical crash helmet, for example. Saying that a gun advocate was a nut-case diminishes the fact that we are surrounded by nut-cases. This dad took a bullet for a lot of us.

  53. In my state, NC (the state where the original incident occurred), bikes are subject to the same traffic laws as other vehicles (though they are in some places provided with special lanes). This includes speed limits; as with other forms of transportation, they may not go over the speed limit but may, of course, go under it. @Brigit, I don’t know where you live, but with the exception of a few highways in this state (mostly interstates) there are no minimum speeds on our roads. Speed limits are maxima.

    @Banshee, I like bike lanes and enjoy using them when they are well-designed and available. They do not solve all problems; besides those already mentioned by other commenters something my municipality seems to struggle with is how to route them when, e.g., there is a right-turn lane for cars. Does the bike lane go to the right (in which case bikes going straight are at risk of getting hit by turning cars), or stay in the middle (putting the bikes between 2 lanes of cars)? Or do we add 2 bike lanes? My point isn’t that bike lanes aren’t useful, it’s just that they don’t solve all problems. And as @Lisa points out, there are tradeoffs to be made between lanes-for-cars and lanes-for-bikes. Another issue my municipality is struggling with (in general, not specific to bikes) is impermeable surfaces — the more of these that go in, the more our water supply (quantity and cleanliness) is threatened. I like bike lanes, but I don’t want our entire community paved, so I recognize that there are going to be tradeoffs. Overall, I appreciate them in high-use (by bikes) areas, but think it is not useful or cost-effective to put them in everywhere.

    You say that, “it annoys me when I come upon a bike riding on the road and I have to swerve into another lane in order to get around them.” But the thing is — and I say this as someone who drives a lot more than I bike, and who drives a lot on narrow, two-lane, curved, hilly country roads very popular with cyclists (and understandably so, given the beauty of the area and the fact that the roads are relatively lightly used by cars) — if you are driving well (i.e. maintaining a safe speed for the conditions), you never have to swerve to avoid a bike traveling on the road in front of you. You can simply slow down. I do it all the time. Sometimes for distances of many hundreds of yards as I wait to get to a section of the road where I can see far enough to know that I can safely (though you are right, often — when there are double lines — technically not legally) pull into the oncoming lane to get around the bike (ironically, despite the beauty of the roads I wouldn’t personally dream of biking on them because I do worry about whether automobile drivers in general behave safely. A driver going too fast would be the legally responsible party, but that’s not going to help me if I’m dead). Is it aggravating? If I’m in a hurry, sure. But that’s my problem, not the bike rider’s. And for what it’s worth, the bikes are only one of many things for which I have to slow down on these roads, tractors (and other farm equipment), runners and walkers (there are no sidewalks), deer, squirrels, and turtles all appear as obstructions as well.

    I’m not going to back off the “health” thing, either. Sure there are other ways to get exercise, but biking on public roads is a great one, and with the money we save on health care we can put in more bike lanes😉.

    In the interest of fairness, though, I will also take exception to @MikeonBike’s point that “Of all the deaths caused by motor vehicles, cyclists represent about 2% of the total. You’re far more likely to kill another motorist or passenger.” OK, but even if I’m willing to accept the statistics without knowing the source, these data are impossible to interpret unless I know how many miles (or hours) bikes cover (travel) in a given year in the US (etc.) versus how many ditto for cars.

  54. Wren wrote: “The way this relates to free range kids is that it’s another example of someone deciding what is best for another person’s kids.”

    One of the key challenges faced by free rangers is a society that thinks free ranging is dangerous and/or illegal and/or just plain wrong.

    Replace “free rangers/ranging” with “cyclists/cycling” and you get almost exactly the same situation. Non-cyclists presuming to decide what is best for cyclists, based on what THEY thing is dangerous and/or illegal and/or just plain wrong.

    Here’s a blog post that discusses how to have a community become more cyclist-friendly. Perhaps the same approach would work to have a community become more free-range-friendly.

    http://commuteorlando.com/wordpress/2009/03/17/strategy-for-a-cyclist-friendly-community/

  55. suburbanbanshee
    So we agree a Firefighter has no need of a handgun as part of his job. If you could explain what need a private citizen needs of a handgun – especially one ‘who doesn’t go around shooting people’ – I’d appreciate it!
    Am I missing something – are handguns similar to a swiss army knife – not just for shootin’ but also for opening canned food and occasionally a beer bottle?
    Cops need guns (though our British friends may disagree), farmers need guns, security guards sometimes need guns. Accountants? LIbrarians? Teachers? They don’t need guns (to carry around).
    I don’t expect to change your mind, I know it is one of the odd little things about being an American (hence our joke) – but I just have to be a little smartarse on this I’m afraid – In Australia this could have developed into a fistfight but never a shooting.

  56. I’d normally be helmet deep in this discussion, but I’ve been mostly away this week. Skimming the comments, another cycling/freerange connection that occurs to me is perception vs. reality. As in all areas of life, when cycling I start to noticed patterns in the behavior of drivers.

    There are the MUST PASS NOW drivers, who will squeeze past me when I’m easily keeping up with the flow of traffic. It seems to be some kind of affront to their man(or woman, this is equal opportunity here)hood to be behind a cyclist for more than .5 seconds. These are also the people you see constantly changing lanes, for mile after mile. And you keep seeing them because they don’t get there any faster, they just slow everyone else down.

    Then there are the ‘oh my god there’s a bicycle, what if they fall over in front of me?’ They’ll slow down to my speed and refuse to pass, holding up everyone else. I appreciate the concern, but honestly, most roads are wide enough to share with no problem. No, don’t buzz me, thank you very much, but I can handle you being 3′ off my left side. Just hug the yellow line on your left where you can see it, and move on by.

    Both of these extremes make decisions based on perception rather than reality.

    And my own reality is that the vast majority of car drivers are fine. They’re not out to kill me. A very few make bad decisions, but that’s not unique to driving a car. I’ve made more than a few bad decisions on my bike (and in my car) too.

  57. Rich Wilson – well said.

  58. So we agree a Firefighter has no need of a handgun as part of his job. If you could explain what need a private citizen needs of a handgun – especially one ‘who doesn’t go around shooting people’ – I’d appreciate it!

    Can we NOT start the gun control debate? That’s never gonna end well….

  59. @Allison & Alexicographer

    In FL it is a ticketable action to go below the speed limit. It’s called impending the flow of traffic and that isn’t just on highways.

    I checked with a few of my officer friends to make sure I was right.

  60. @Brigit, I’ve found police officers are a surprisingly unreliable source for accurate legal advice. Heck, just read some of the previous stories in this blog. 😉

    Here’s what FL law actually says:

    http://mighkwilson.com/2009/05/impeding-traffic-is/

    “316.183 Unlawful speed.(5) No person shall drive a motor vehicle at such a slow speed as to impede or block the normal and reasonable movement of traffic, except when reduced speed is necessary for safe operation or in compliance with law.”

    This law doesn’t apply to bicycles, horse-drawn wagons, or other street-legal (non-motor) vehicles.

    Nor does “such a slow speed” mean that going 40 in a 45 zone is a crime.

    It’s funny how many people think they’re Sandra Bulluck, driving a bus that will explode if it slows down.

  61. @MikeOnBike, you are my comment hero.

    “It’s funny how many people think they’re Sandra Bulluck, driving a bus that will explode if it slows down.”

    LOL!

  62. @MikeonBike
    Thanks for finding the correct info on this.

    In my neighborhood there are drivers who like to drive 30 in a posted 45 so that is impeding traffic.

  63. 30 in a 45 zone might or might not be impeding. It’s a judgment call. That’s the point of the mighkwilson.com link above.

    There’s no hard-fast rule, otherwise the law would have been written with specific numbers.

    More generally, the driver in front of you has the right of way, unless you have sirens and flashing lights.

  64. 30 in a 45 zone! You should pull them over and shoot them after a short discussion!

    (I saw an opening for a joke and couldn’t resist it – I am only winding you up, please don’t take offence!)

  65. I hope this guy got a good long jail sentence.

    Shooting someone is never the right answer and in this case it might actually have endangered the kid he tried to “save”. He could’ve hit the kid, caused him to fall from the bike, etc.

    Travelling a busy road is perfectly fine as long as the father takes the rules into account. Driving his car along the same road would probably be more dangerous…

  66. Tunnel Rd. is a very busy highway, 4-6 lanes that connects 2 interstate loops and downtown Asheville.

    Traffic is dangerous and insane in a car, it’s so heavy at all times that cars are zooming out here and pulling out in front of people left and right, just trying to merge into traffic, there is no shoulder and no bike lane. The speed of traffic is about 20 mph above the speed limit, with brakes squeeling. It’s a melee. You have to be slightly deluded to joy ride with your baby on the back of a bike on this road.
    And the original news report said that the baby was not wearing a helmet or properly strapped in, that’s what set the firefighter off. He’s scraped a few kids off the road in his line of work and this was just his tipping point.

    Not at all saying that he was in the right, he obviously lost a few marbles.
    But,
    It would probably be safer to bike down the emergency lane of the interstate that this road connects to.

  67. Jenn, I’m not from the area, so I can’t comment on the road. But I have cycled in many places where motorists thought I was crazy, but I felt I was acceptably safe. And I have been riding in traffic for over 35 years. And yes my ‘acceptably safe’ is different when pulling my son in his trailer (mostly due to decreased mobility and extra width).

    However, that original new report was wrong. The ‘baby’ is actually five, not three, and he was wearing a helmet, and he was strapped in. This is from his grandfather who is a fellow member of a cycling advocacy organization. Considering the organization that the grandfather is in, and that the father was wearing a helmet (since the bullet went through it), I find it incredulous that the child would not be wearing a helmet.

  68. Jenn, the victim in this incident sent me this:

    Hey Jenn, I am the cyclist, and as far as your info about Tunnel road is concerned, it is a very untrue assessment. You make it sound as if it was the autobahn.. Where we were riding was a 4 lane highway with a middle turn lane in it, only a 45 mph zone, There is a bike’s share the road sign no more than 300 ft from the incident.

    As far as your report of my son not wearing a helmet or not being strapped in, you are way wrong. And besides that, No one ,no matter who you are, deserves to get shot at for riding their bikes. We follow all the rules of the road and we did nothing wrong. Think of us as you wish, and that goes to anyone else, but we will continue to ride where we want as we want. I have posted a link here from a friend of mine in Charlotte , NC which will show you that share the road sign and the actual road conditions http://charlottevelo.com/2009/07/28/cyclist-season-asheville/

    Alan Simons

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