Cycling hazards

Bicyclists oft complain about drivers, and I understand the perspective: if there is an accident involving a car and a bike, you know that the damage will not be distributed evenly. Locally there has been some effort for the last few years to create more bike lanes and educate drivers, and we have a law about passing distance. This makes sense. Bike lanes make things safer for all of us, and some drivers (a minority in my experience) don't understand what to do with bikes on the road.

But. I am finding it very hard to remain sympathetic when the very same people who complain about dangers from cars are themselves dangers to pedestrians. Cyclists, you have to rein in your own -- the blatant disregard for traffic laws is bad enough when you just do it to drivers, but it's inexcusable when you're running down people who have no defense against you.

Friday night while walking home from services I was crossing Forbes at a marked crosswalk. This crosswalk is marked not only with painted lines, and not only with one of those signboards in the middle of the road, but also with flashing yellow lights on either side. It's the most visible crosswalk in the neighborhood. Nonetheless I always stop and look at oncoming drivers to try to confirm that they see me and are slowing down.

Friday night I looked both ways as usual and then started to cross. A bicycle whizzed in front of me at high speed (much faster than the last car to pass), its rider cursing at the "f---ing b----" in his way. I stopped and turned to stare, looking in vain for anything I could use to identify him. That's when two more whizzed by me, also cursing. One of them grazed me (I'm not sure with what, but no blood). All of them continued on, spewing vulgarities.

They had no headlights, by the way, and all were wearing dark clothes. Not that it was, legally, my job to see them -- just self-defense, which I attempted. I, on the other hand, was in a marked crosswalk wearing brightly-colored clothes.

This infuriates me. Not only did they blatantly ignore traffic laws, not only did they nearly mow me down, not only did they not even stop, but they acted like I was the problem. I think drivers, cyclists, and pedestrians all need to learn to share the roads, but some need to learn way more badly than others. These cyclists clearly thought they shouldn't have to care about anybody else.

Just the previous day I'd been nearly run down by two (more-slowly-moving, but still) cyclists on the sidewalk. That happens to me a couple times a month on average, not counting children -- I just mean adult cyclists here. Sidewalks are for pedestrians; we shouldn't have to be constantly on the lookout for speeding traffic hazards of the wheeled variety.

I am going to write a letter to my City Council representative (can't hurt, could possibly help), but I'd like to go beyond complaining. What concrete suggestions can I make, as our city expends effort (and money) altering public roads to work better with cyclists? What has actually worked in other cities to get everybody on board with sharing the road, and what has been done to hold cyclists accountable for following the rules of the road (and sidewalk)?

They are unregistered, so there are no license plates to spot; they are unlicensed, so their privilege to use the roads can't be taken away; they are almost never seen in the act by police officers, because that would require quite a bit of luck; they can easily leave the scene of any problem, so if the police are not already there they will get away with whatever they were doing. Does anybody require licenses or registration? What else can be done?

I'm not trying to persecute cyclists. I recognize that not all cyclists are like those ones on Friday. But I am trying to find a way to get them all to play by the rules -- and maybe even to recognize that when they do to pedestrians what they accuse drivers of doing to them, they do not help their cause.

What concrete suggestions can I take to my local government?