In the past few years, many cities and local governments have embraced bicycling as a reasonable way to use public roads — carving out special lanes, setting up bike-sharing stations and generally making life easier for those who want to travel by two wheels rather than four.
But those moves haven't come without complaint about congestion and special treatment, and just as biking clubs have grown for weekend riders, so has anti-bike advocacy and concerns about who rules the road — such as the handmade warning signs above from a pro-vehicle group. In a shocking but not surprising turn, one Texas man now faces charges after being caught on video threatening a group of cyclists with a baseball bat — and ending the row by running over a $5,000 bicycle.
The incident took place in Conroe, Texas, last week, where the Woodlands Cycling Club often rides a loop around subdivisions — a route, its members say, that has little traffic and a 30-mph speed limit. According to the Montgomery County Police Reporter, the cyclists were riding single-file when one Sherman Ralph Clark, 74, yelled at them from his pickup, then pulled into their path and braked suddenly, causing one of the riders to crash.
In the video taken by one of the cyclists after the crash, a man identified as Clark stands outside the pickup with a bat in hand, saying he's holding it to protect himself. After a few minutes, Clark gets back into his Chevy pickup, and speeds away, crushing one of the bicycles in the process.
Montgomery County police later arrested Clark and charged him with criminal mischief and aggravated assault. Meanwhile, the case has sparked all the usual arguments about who pays for the roads, who's more impatient in traffic and why people just can't see the other side's clearly obvious point. "The cyclists in this area are obnoxious and behave as though the rules of the road don’t pertain to them," said one typical commenter on the Clark case. "The old man in the video was out of line and way over-reacted, but I can certainly see his frustration."
You don't have to look far for similar incidents that ended with more tragic outcomes: a woman who hit five riders last month in Los Angeles, killing one, or the former chief financial officer for Amazon who died when a van turned suddenly. There's no solid data on exactly how much people ride today, but all signs point to more cyclists and more danger; while traffic-crash deaths have fallen in recent years, bicycle fatalities have held steady, with 677 deaths in 2011.
The truth? Roads don't belong to any one person no matter what they're driving. Outside of freeways, cyclists have the same right-of-ways as any other user. And no baseball bat can inflict the permanent hit from a 3,000-lb. hunk of metal at 30 mph. With 3.9 million miles of road in the United States, you would think sharing wouldn't be such a big deal.
Top photo: Keeping Rural Roads Safe via Facebook