Saturday, December 4, 2010

Letter to the Director of Transportation, Springfield Public Schools

Rick Emling, Director of Transportation
Springfield Public Schools, Transportation Department
1600 East Chestnut Expressway
Springfield, MO 65802
Fax (417) 532-0545

Dear Mr. Emling,

The City of Springfield prides itself on being a bicycle friendly community and was recently named a Bronze Level Bicycle Community. I was not feeling that friendliness on the morning of Monday, December 6, 2010, at approximately 7:45 a.m. While traveling north on Ingram Mill Road, I found myself mere inches from possibly being killed by the driver of the No. 7 Springfield School Bus. I ride my bicycle to work daily and have done so for the past 3 years. I ride over 4,000 miles a year and in the past have generally had very safe interactions with the Springfield School bus drivers. I take responsibility for my safety and ride in a high visibility yellow jacket. I have a flashing red taillight. I obey traffic signs and wait my turn in lines. I signal my turns and try to follow the law.

I haven’t brought this incident to your attention with the hope of causing trouble for the driver in question. I would like to use this opportunity to solicit your help in educating your drivers with the law related to bicycles.

At the time of this incident I was riding on the right hand side of the northbound lane of Ingram Mill Road, less than 1/2 mile north of Glendale High School. I was riding approximately 18 inches from the gutter seam. I do not recall the distance the bus was from me when it began its pass but it began moving back into my lane of travel shortly after the door passed me and well before it was safely beyond me. As the rear bumper passed me it was no more than a couple of inches from my handle bars. This space between us was only there because I had began braking and moving closer towards the curb as the bus was squeezing me into the gutter. Had I not braked and evasively moved, I would have been struck by the side of the bus.

I would appreciate it if you would bring this incident to the driver’s attention. If it were a simple oversight regarding the length of their vehicle, then perhaps more training is in order. If this potentially deadly pass was for any other reason, then perhaps more training regarding the law is necessary. I would remind the driver that according to Missouri Revised Statutes § 307.188, bicycles have a right to be on the road. Contrary to many road users understanding, the law does not say bicycles must ride as far to the right as possible. It says as far to the right as is safe. It further instructs that if the lane is too narrow to share with another vehicle, that a bicycle may use the full lane.

I would also point out that according to Missouri Revised Statutes § 300.411 and § 304.678, the burden to pass safely is on the overtaking vehicle. It states that drivers “...shall leave a safe passing distance, when passing the bicycle, and shall maintain clearance until safely past the overtaken bicycle.” If a standard is necessary to understand what a “safe passing distance” is, I would direct your attention to a bill currently in the Missouri House that will most likely pass as it has in numerous other states. It will require a passing distance of no less than 3 feet.

I could almost understand a driver becoming upset if I were holding up traffic unnecessarily and stacking up a line of vehicles behind me because I was riding to slowly. However, that was not the case in this particular situation. As you may know, Ingram Mill is not a narrow road. There was more than ample space in the center of the road for the driver to negotiate a safe pass without even having to slow down. For the sake of safety, I would remind the driver that if there was not ample space to pass safely, it is the passing vehicle’s duty to wait until it is safe to do so and not to attempt to squeeze through.

There is plenty of room to share our roads, and they would be much safer for all of us, if we would just show a little courtesy for those around us. Thank you for your attention to this matter.

Sincerely,
Jim Phillips

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Week of November 21 - 48 Bike, 15 Run
Week of November 28 - 64 Bike, 17 Run

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