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Letter: Unprotected road user statute could save lives

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Note: The statements, views, and opinions contained in this letter to the editor are those of the author and are not endorsed by, nor do they necessarily reflect, the opinions of The Republic.

From: Noel Taylor


Received: July 5

I would like to propose an “unprotected road user” statute for the city of Columbus that extends — to pedestrians, skateboard riders, bicyclists, motorcyclists and anyone else not encased in steel and glass — the same protections currently provided to highway workers. (“Hit a worker, go to jail, pay a fine.”) I say this because “cage drivers” no longer demonstrate awareness of a need to share those streets. Here are some details:

1. Most vehicles rarely stop at stop signs. The going rate seems to be slowing down slightly below 20 mph to roll on through the associated intersection.

Whether it’s three cars at a four-way stop, one of which is attempting a left turn, all trying to be first through the intersection or one vehicle leaving skid marks when the surprised driver realizes that the driver ahead of him is actually coming to a full stop at the intersection, it seems that awareness of the law has gone missing.

Yes, there was the foreign national who claimed that she didn’t know what a stop sign looked like, but the vast majority of offenders on our streets don’t have that excuse.

2. Protected operators do not drive with any expectation of seeing unprotected road users. The rate of pedestrian and bicyclist deaths here each year should make this case. If that’s not enough for you, add in the driver who “didn’t see” the motorcycle he ended up on top of in the middle of Jonathan Moore Pike during an attempted left turn, or the motorcycle she rammed from behind, knocking it out from under its rider, when it failed to move the instant the light turned green at 25th and Taylor.

I spoke with an insurance adjuster for a major insurance company last week who has ridden motorcycles for 50 years and has decided to give up and sell his bike because of the fact that most of the personal injury accidents he investigates occurred because the driver at fault was using a cellphone at the time of the accident.

Some may think this man is wise; others recognize that his choice has been taken away from him, a detail that applies to the dead bicyclists and pedestrians as well.

Andy Goldfine, a designer at Aerostich Equipment, declares that riding is a social good due to the minimal eco/energy footprint and broad range of personal health benefits involved.

Wholehearted agreement comes from visitors from Portland, Ore., to Eastside Community Center this spring, who shared about the huge improvements in driving habits and social skills that came after Portland tore down some expressways, stopped others from being built, changed many four-lane streets to two, and funded a huge bicycle pathway system on its streets.

Naysayers claim that we can’t fund streets from the taxes not paid by unprotected road users — as if that has any bearing on the subject — but the truth of the matter is that with the exception of the interstate highway system, our roads are funded out of the General Fund into which all taxpayers pay.

Think of the decrease in wear and tear on city streets if there were more 3-pound, 25-pound and 500-pound vehicles instead of all the one-occupant personal vehicles weighing between 2,000 and 6,000 pounds each. Think of the decrease in congestion as well.

In Portland, driving habits changed once people became accustomed to sharing space with unprotected road users. Courtesy emerged triumphant while injury and death numbers plummeted.

In view of gasoline prices, why not try a simple protective statute here in Columbus? Doing so may not stop irate motor home drivers from perceiving every person on two wheels as an impediment to their progress, but it will make them look.

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