Officials speaking for Sacramento County claim that most incidents of car-on-bike violence in the area are the fault of cyclists, writes Cody Kitaura in a recent article. According to the Bicycle Master Plan, an extensive document published online by the Sacramento Municipal Transportation Agency, 74% of crashes involving cyclists in the area were caused by bicycles. The overwhelming majority of those crashes were caused by cyclists riding the wrong way.
Riding the wrong way on a public road is illegal, but many cyclists choose to ride in designated bike lanes facing oncoming traffic for one simple reason: they feel more safe when they can see the cars heading towards them.
The roads in Sacramento are poorly equipped for bicycle commuters, with inadequate bike lanes and lacklustre enforcement of in-lane car-parking violations. Many important arteries have no designated cycling paths at all, or else they abruptly discontinue bike lanes in stretches of road where they become inconvenient for drivers.
In an region where drivers routinely assault cyclists, and law-enforcement officers favor cars over bikes, many riders feel vulnerable on the roads. Pedestrians are traditionally advised, when walking on the roadside, to face oncoming traffic so that in the event of a driver swerving into the verge, they might be able to avoid being struck. The same wisdom has been embraced by cyclists, who take up very little of the roadway and who assume that drivers will be better able to see them coming on the road.
But riding on the wrong side of the road remains illegal, and should not be encouraged. The problem is, in the absence of overdue, underfunded, long-promised cycling lane expansion in Sacramento, in order to obey the law cyclists must wrestle with a population of heavy car and truck users who care little about their safety, and who don’t think twice about yelling, swearing and honking at cyclists as they approach, and forcing them off the roads when they pass.
Without a serious examination of the attitude of drivers in Sacramento towards cyclists on the roads, there is little chance of an end to the practice of riding on the wrong side of the road. When drivers agree to obey the law regarding passing cyclists safely, perhaps cyclists will reciprocate by staying on the correct side of the road.