I’m sure most of us know drivers are not supposed to use their hands for calling or texting while behind the wheel – it’s the law.
But one of my pet peeves is people who know that and do the right thing by pulling over to use the phone but do so on the shoulder or bike lane of a busy road at rush hour. Bike lanes were not put there to serve as cellphone parking lots.
I encounter this almost daily in this area. Specific examples of once-quiet country roads that now serve as busy commuter arteries include Junipero Serra Boulevard, El Monte Road (between Foothill Expressway and Interstate 280) and Alpine Road. All of these roads feature bumper-to-bumper traffic moving at more than 35 mph certain times of day, and I regularly encounter motorists using the shoulder for cellphone calls on all of them. People seem to do this whether parking is legal or illegal, or if the road has a designated bike lane or simply a shoulder. My guess is that few motorists stop to hunt for No Parking or Bike Lane signs when they pull over.
Drivers know that it’s dangerous to enter a busy freeway at speeds significantly slower than the speed of traffic. That is what bicyclists have to do when they encounter a car parked in their way, because most cyclists are not capable of adjusting their speed to traffic at 45 mph.
Please consider the other guy and remember that just because a driving action is not illegal, it doesn’t mean it’s safe. Please find a safe place to pull over – not just a place that is legal.
Those of you who illegally use their phones while driving should consider that it’s almost impossible to drive a straight line in heavy traffic on these roads. It is not uncommon for me to be passed by a motorist with one tire in the bike lane or see someone ahead of me swerving unpredictably in and out of the shoulder or stopping in the bike lane when traffic comes to a stop. Often the offender and I (on my bike) will pass and repass each other several times at busy times of day, and when I glance inside the car as we pass each other, I see the erratically driving person playing with his or her phone 100% of the time. Predictably, when drivers look up and see me, they throw the phone on the seat beside them while pretending they didn’t see me. It would be funny if it weren’t serious.
It’s not just drivers
Law enforcement officers have to make quick decisions when it comes to pulling drivers over, but it would be great if they could avoid doing so in bike lanes. Use the loudspeaker to guide the offender into a parking lot or a side street when possible. Don’t address one problem by creating another one.
I also urge bicyclists to follow the rules of the road. You have a higher burden, because if motorists see you behaving rudely, it can reinforce their stereotype that cyclists are all a bunch of jerks who shouldn’t have rights on the road.
If we all think about safety first, we will increase our empathy for each other and make the roads a safer place.
Chris Hoeber is a local resident, avid cyclist and founder of a cycling club. Email questions and comments to [email protected].