BANGOR, Maine — A recent Facebook post from the Bangor Police Department about bike safety was read by people around the world and bicyclist and motorist chimed in with their sometimes angry opinions.
“I was not ready for the onslaught of comments that followed,” Sgt. Tim Cotton, who posted the bike safety item on June 2 after seeing cyclist having a hard time maneuvering through street construction and lane closures on Main Street, said in a second post on Friday, June 6. “Some were pleasant and some were downright angry.”
Cotton said Saturday that the original post “kind of took off a little bit. It got shared around the nation and in other countries.”
His Friday post states, “I was quoted from Cape Cod all the way to Bend, Oregon and numerous places in between.”
“It was an interesting exchange,” the sergeant said Saturday. “Motorist were angry at how bikes bother them and bikers were angry at motorists. It just seems from the posts on both sides of that issue that they are angry at one another.”
Cotton said he issued the second post after reading “some ridiculous questions about whether it is ok to injure a bike rider (using a motor vehicle) if they run a red light” and he included a link to a story about a Boston man assaulting a bicyclist stopped in front of him at a red light.
He ended the post with a postscript.
“P.S. … If you smack someone in traffic, it won’t matter if you are a facebook friend, you can expect to be charged with assault, read your name in the paper and be remembered as the ‘dipstick that smacked that person in traffic for no reason,’” Cotton said. “We all have choices people.”
Maine law requires motorist to leave a distance of not less than three feet between themselves and the bicycle or roller skier as they pass and bicyclists are required to follow the same road rules as vehicle drivers.
Youth from the area got a first-hand bike safety education Saturday during a bike rodeo, hosted by the Bangor Lowe’s in partnership with Bangor Fire Department, The Ski Rack, and the Maine Bicycle and Pedestrian Safety Education Program.
“It’s a mock street scene with yield and stop signs so they can learn the rules of the road,” said Jen Haslett, human resources director for the retailer.
“There is this misconception that bikes have to ride in the shoulder or sidewalks,” Erik Dasilva, of the bike safety program who was educating the youth participants about street signs and using hand signals. “Bikes must obey the same rules of the road as cars.”
“Bikes are allowed to take the right lane. The law says they should stay as far right as safely possible,” he added later. “If they need to take a left, they should go to the left lane.”
If a bicyclist is worried about traffic, they can dismount and walk their bike through the intersection using the crosswalks, Dasilva said.
Cotton said he never expected his bike safety post to cause such infighting between bike riders and car drivers.
“The idea of the post is just to remind people to be safe around bikes with all the construction and all the paving going on in the summer,” the sergeant said. “I just wanted to remind people about the rules of the road.”