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Guest Column: Charley Gee

I was disheartened to see a letter to the editor in last week's Itemizer-Observer ("Bicyclists spoil spring for writer," March 19) characterizing bicyclists in a negative light.

While this is far from a new trend, there does seem to be an increasing amount of criticism toward bicyclists in today's world.

Perhaps this stems from the new, wider SUVs or the increasing popularity of cycling, or even a jealousy of bicyclists by drivers stuck in traffic as they see them sail down the bike lane freely and without $4 a gallon gasoline in the tank burning away.

The philosophy behind this anger, however, seems to be flawed.

The "bigger is better" line of thinking these anti-bicyclists espouse is dangerous and wrong. What if every person out there using a shared resource like our roads and highways held this view? Every car on the road would be at the mercy of every SUV and every SUV would be fodder for log trucks and semis.

There doesn't need to be this type of disagreement regarding the use of the road between varying users.

It's important to remember that in Oregon a bicyclist is considered a vehicle by law, with all the rights - and responsibilities - that come with that designation.

Bicyclists must use a bicycle lane if there is one available, but if that lane is unsafe, or if there is no bicycle lane, then bicyclists are allowed to ride as far to the right as possible, or the left on a one-way street. This includes highways as well as surface streets.

Motorists must yield to cyclists in bicycle lanes as well as on sidewalks and in crosswalks. Bicyclists must use hand signals for all turns and stops, so long as it's safe to do so, and must have proper lighting to see as well as be seen.

These are all laws to keep both bicyclists and motorists safe.

The most important thing that motorists and bicyclists alike need to remember is safety. If a motorist sees a bicyclist riding ahead, slow down and wait until it's safe to pass. A couple of seconds of waiting is worth not having the criminal and civil ramifications of an accident brought down before you. And bicyclists need to remember to obey the rules of the road in order to be taken seriously by motorists.

I find it disturbing that the Itemizer-Observer printed this offending letter. Their policy of not printing letters "in bad taste" would seem to apply to a letter threatening an entire class of people - those who enjoy cycling for recreation or for their commute - with bodily harm. I hope the Itemizer, and its readers, will not take the writer's words to heart and that we will all learn to someday share the road with one another safely, legally and efficiently.

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Charley Gee, a 1998 graduate of Dallas High School, is a recent graduate of Portland State University and will be entering law school in the fall. He is employed by a Portland law firm and is an advocate for bicyclers and pedestrians.

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