Weather Feb 23 2023

A bicyclist rides across the trestle on the Enola Low Grade Trail at Safe Harbor, in Manor Township, Thursday, Feb. 23, 2023.


As LNP | LancasterOnline’s Dan Nephin noted in Sunday’s “Lancaster Watchdog” column, bicyclist Robin Megill was shot March 13 “when he followed a motorist who beeped at him along Fruitville Pike. The shot was fired when Megill pulled open the driver’s door when the driver was stopped at the traffic signal at Delp Road. Because police said he pulled open the door and moved toward the inside of the vehicle, Megill, 33, of Manheim Township, was charged with disorderly conduct, a summary offense. He pleaded guilty April 22 and paid about $412 in fines and costs. ... The shooter was not charged. The Lancaster County District Attorney’s Office said he was justified.”

Whatever your view of the confrontation between the bicyclist and the motorist in Manheim Township in March, we can agree that the incident should be categorized as road rage.

It was a sharp reminder that however we traverse Lancaster County roads — whether on bicycle, motor vehicle or buggy — many of us need to calm down. And we need to learn to share those roads.

As spring turns to summer, there will be more bicyclists on our roads. Some will be riding for fitness. Others will be pedaling to work. Some will be casual riders, and some of those will be kids. They have the same right to the road as those of us in motor vehicles.

While we adamantly believe that firing a gun is almost never the correct response in a dispute, we’re not going to defend the actions of the bicyclist who opened the door of the vehicle in Manheim Township.

We are, however, going to make a case for the overwhelming majority of bicyclists in Lancaster County who obey the rules of the road and just want to be able to ride their bikes in peace.

If you see a bicyclist weaving in and out of traffic or otherwise riding unsafely, a tap on your vehicle horn might be appropriate — or, if it’s a kid, some calmly delivered words of caution might work (mentioning that their grandmother would want them to ride more safely can be effective, we have found).

But there’s no excuse for some of the taunts and threats to which local bicyclists are subjected.

On one recent day, Michael Montgomery — a skilled bicyclist and editorial board member — was riding in East Lampeter Township on Hartman Station Road, which has a minimal shoulder, when a car approached him and his fellow cyclist and the motorist blared his vehicle horn at them. A second car came along; a kid in the front passenger seat, clearly taking his cues from his parent behind the wheel, rolled down his window and screamed at the bicyclists to get off the road. The occupant of a third vehicle waved politely and made space for the bicyclists on the road.

Why can’t we all be like the motorist in the third vehicle, unfazed by the presence of bicyclists in our vicinity, and content to share the road?

Montgomery said he and his fellow bicyclists routinely face a barrage of angry shouts, profane gestures and, most egregiously, homophobic slurs. They get beeped at, screamed at and, dangerously, swerved at. “People will yell at us to ride single-file, which most of us do, but we’re not required to do,” he said.

Bicyclists are allowed by law to ride side-by-side on roadways, but with no more than two bicyclists riding abreast of one another. And they are generally prohibited from riding on sidewalks in business districts, so don’t scream at them to do so.

Even when roads have clearly marked paths meant to accommodate bicyclists — and there remains too little of such bicycle infrastructure in the county — motorists get angry.

As the “Lancaster Watchdog” column explained, Pennsylvania’s Vehicle Code states that every “person riding a pedalcycle (legislative-speak for bicycle) upon a roadway shall be granted all of the rights and shall be subject to all of the duties applicable to the driver of a vehicle.”

The law clearly states, of course, that bicyclists “shall obey the applicable rules of the road.”

There are caveats.

“One allows cyclists to ride on the shoulder in the same direction as traffic,” the Watchdog explained.

The law also states that cyclists traveling at less than the normal speed of traffic shall ride in the right-hand lane or “as close as practicable to the right-hand curb or edge of the roadway.”

But if a roadway surface is unsafe — covered in gravel, for instance, or marred by potholes — cyclists may use any part of the road.

“In short,” the Watchdog noted, “cyclists should stay to the right if possible; they can — but don’t have to — ride on the shoulder.”

And motorists must give bicyclists at least 4 feet of space when passing them and pass “at a careful and prudent reduced speed.” Vehicles may even overtake a bicycle in a no-passing zone, but this must be done carefully and while providing the required 4 feet of clearance.

All of that should be manageable — for motorists and bicyclists alike.

Lancaster County is a beautiful part of the world. Bicyclists come from other states to enjoy its covered bridges, its rail trails and its rural roads. And many county residents ride bikes to get exercise, to save on gas, to reduce their environmental impact. Others ride for the sheer fun of it.

There are good drivers and bad drivers; good bicyclists and bad ones. Please drive or cycle carefully and defensively — that is, be focused and attentive, so you can avoid being harmed by other people’s mistakes — but don’t drive or cycle aggressively. If tempers flare, choose to de-escalate the conflict.

Our roads can accommodate all of us, but there’s no room for rage and hostility.

This week

 This is Teacher Appreciation Week, National Nurses Week and Public Service Recognition Week. We thank the dedicated teachers, nurses and public servants whose hard work is often unsung. We are deeply grateful.

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