Sunday, July 29, 2007

Letter to the Agawam Fire Dept.

To Whom It May Concern:

I was alarmed to read a story on the WWLP website which quoted Agawam Fire Dept. Lieutenant Jim Brown as saying, “anyone walking, or bicycle riding should always be heading in the direction facing traffic.” (see the link below for the story brief)

This information is correct as it relates to pedestrians, but wholly (and dangerously) incorrect for operators of wheeled vehicles, including cyclists. In Massachusetts, as in every other state, the law of the road concerning movement of vehicles is clear and unequivocal: bicycle = car. This means that you should operate your bicycle like a driver of a vehicle.

The same is true of people on skateboards, in-line skates and all other forms of small-wheeled vehicles--all traffic rules should be obeyed.

To have someone trained in safety make a statement to the contrary serves to make clear just how poorly understood these rules are. Yet, it is when people violate these rules that serious injuries are more likely to occur, so it is imperative that the misinformation be corrected publicly as soon as possible.

In the interest of safety, I have asked WWLP to verify that the quotation is correct, but I would strongly encourage the Agawam Fire Department to issue a clarification which includes a correct analysis of the rules of safety for pedestrians, and for cyclists, skateboards and others.



I'll post any replies I get.


Kizz said...

Was the spokesperson quite old? It's within my memory that the rules for biking direction have changed to the (sensible) way they are now. Just this evening a cyclist ignored a red light and almost killed me.


Mrs. Chili said...

I am ALWAYS amazed by how many people DON"T know the bike=car rule. I'm teaching my children that they go with the flow of traffic, AND that they obey all the traffic signals (stop signs, lights, etc). The ONLY problem I can see is coming up on a left turn that has a triggered light - sometimes, cyclists have to blow those lights (after stopping, of course) because their weight isn't enough to trip the signal. Otherwise, all rules get obeyed, at least by Chilis on wheels...

Wayfarer said...

Kizz: I've heard it before, but I have never seen it that the rules for the direction of travel for cyclists were the opposite to what we have now. I did a bit of research to see if I could find something to support that statement, but I couldn't find anything. I'll keep digging.

To say it true, there is a longstanding school of thought that insists it is safer to ride against traffic. It's quite pervasive, and it's made me curious to know where it comes from.

As to the cyclist ignoring the light. You're right: Fucker.

Chili: Your response to the triggered traffic light problem is, in essence, exactly what you should do. The specifics on the laws regarding this vary somewhat from state to state, but you'll always be given consideration if you treat it as a full stop and wait for the intersection to clear. Thank you for teaching your family well!

Kizz said...

I learned about the opposite thing from my dad who is, despite his thoughts to the contrary, not a proven expert on everything. He is, however, old and used to ride a bike so I figure it's believable that he was taught the opposition rule in NH at some point. I think the theory was that it somehow made you more visible and that it gave you a better view of what the cars who were in a position to kill you were doing.

Anonymous said...

Lt. James Brown is a long time fire Lt. in Agawam. He teaches at the Mass Fire Academy in Stow.