Here's a little downtown Charleston bicycle traffic quiz for you:
a) Keep going because, after all, traffic signals are for cars.
b) Jump up on the sidewalk and keep on truckin'.
c) Stop like all the other vehicles.
a) Sit there sucking up the exhaust of some SUV and cigar smoke from the idiot in the truck in front of you.
b) Ride between the two lanes of traffic where, hey, there's no waiting!
c) Jump up on the sidewalk and keep going.
a) Politely yell, "Excuse me" and wait for them to move.
b) Swerve through them -- they'll get out of the way.
c) Ride on the road and avoid the entire confrontation.
a) Go down to the next block and turn north on Ashley, obeying traffic signals.
b) Ride against the flow of traffic since you are on a bike and not taking up an entire lane.
c) Just turn up the iPod and pedal on up the sidewalk. If someone gets hurt, no problem -- there are tons of doctors in the area.
The correct answers are ... well, apparently unfathomable to a great many bike riders around here.
Tim Keane, director of planning for the city, says some people don't realize that bicycles are subject to the same traffic laws as all other vehicles on the road. For instance, you can't ride against traffic on a one-way street, ignore stop signs or ride on the sidewalk.
Which is only fair. They don't let Crown Vics drive on the sidewalk, either.
The police have started ticketing some of these pedaling scofflaws (see Page 3B), and even cycling organizations applaud the move. That's probably because right now, a good number of maniacs are giving the rest of bicycle riders a bad name.
Local attorney Peter Wilborn has a great website on this subject at www.mybikelaw.com. It's a good resource for folks who need to know how to drive around cyclists and for all those downtowners who think the sidewalk is their own little Tour de France. Because even though Charleston is turning into quite the bike-friendly town, not every road will end up with a bike lane like St. Andrews Boulevard is getting.
There are enough crashes between cars and bikes these days that are caused by inattentive drivers; folks on bikes don't need to tempt fate by ignoring the rules of the road. After all, it's in their best interest.
Because not even Vegas will give odds on car vs. bicycle.