In a Sunday Close to Home column, Matthew Wilson of Santa Rosa wrote about his devotion to cycling for the past five years. He found the lifestyle change left him with more energy, less weight, a better attitude and more money in his pocket.
But that devotion ended two weeks ago when his hand was struck by a passing car as he was signaling to make a left-hand turn. “Had I made the turn one second earlier, I would have been creamed,” said Wilson (“Why I'm no longer a cyclist,” Close to Home).
This was not the first time he's come close to being seriously injured. But it was his last, he vowed.
“My cycling career is over,” he wrote, later adding. “I can't tell you how comfortable and safe I feel now with 3,000 pounds of metal protecting me. No one will ever be able to convince me that cars and bicycles can coexist.”
What's made clear by the comments left online in response to this column and other stories that have been shared in articles and letters to the editor in recent years is that Wilson is not alone in having such close encounters of the deadly kind.
All the same, bicycles and cars do need to co-exist. Those drivers who think otherwise — who believe that the way to discourage cyclists is to drive close to them in a threatening manner, say or throw things at them or try to scare them in some other fashion — are headed for what we hope will be a rude awakening.
On Tuesday, the Sonoma County Board of Supervisors will be considering a proposed ordinance that would make it easier for cyclists as well as pedestrians to sue those who intentionally try to cause them harm or threaten them.
Cities such as Los Angeles, Berkeley, Sunnyvale, Sebastopol and Washington, D.C. have already passed such a “vulnerable user” law. But this stands to become the first county in the nation to do the same. We hope it does.
Not that we believe the ordinance will be applied very often. In fact, to date, no city that has such a vulnerable user law in place has seen a case brought forward.
But it will send a clear message of zero tolerance for the kind of driving nonsense that has put lives at risk for what amounts to petty road rage.
From what we can tell, there's nothing in this ordinance that will increase exposure for drivers who are involved in what is a true accident — one in which no clear harassment was demonstrated.
There's also nothing here that will indemnify bike riders who ignore traffic laws and are, themselves, guilty of reckless behavior.
But it drives home the point that, like it or not, bicyclists and drivers do need to have patience with each other, they do need to follow the laws and they do need to co-exist.
We encourage supervisors to pass this “vulnerable user” law.