Legal Vs. Courteous?

By Cecil "Zeke" Yount | Jul 16, 2013

At approximately 12:30 p.m. on Saturday, July 13th, I was concluding my daily visit to Lowes at Lake Junaluska.  As I was departing Lowes, I noted two cyclists descending the hill toward the tangle of cars and lanes that will soon be no more thanks to a NC DOT Extreme Make-over. Little did I know at that point that I would be presented with yet another “teaching moment” quicker than you can say “Yes, please make that double cheese and double bacon on my triple pounder!”

Knowing that NC 209 is a popular ride for local cyclists, I anticipated that I would see the two cyclists again as I was headed toward the Shell station on 209 to fill up our gas tank. Soon, the cyclists appeared on the horizon. They were on the final short climb past Smoky Mountain Rehab center and about to drop down the short descent to the intersection of Richland Creek Road and NC 209. They, or at least one of them, was about to provide the “teaching moment.”

To set the stage, NC 209 has a wide enough shoulder to allow cyclists to be out of the stream of traffic by riding single file. With the exception of a couple of spots, It is generally clean enough so that safety issues do not force cyclists into the main stream of traffic. Such seemed to be the conditions on this day.

Four vehicles were “stacked up” behind the cyclists as they pedaled their way up and over the crest of the hill. One cyclist rode on the shoulder while the other cyclist, apparently oblivious to the traffic behind, proceeded to ride mostly mid-right lane side-by-side of the cyclist who was riding on the shoulder. The first trailing car was unwilling to pass the two cyclists and this kept the other vehicles from passing as well. Perhaps a clear line of sight wasn’t available or perhaps the driver simply wasn’t willing to pass the cyclist in the road. Either way, traffic was slowed down quite considerably.

The behavior of the cyclist and manner of operation of his “vehicle” provides an opportunity to discuss Legal Vs. Courteous. Was the cyclist riding in the road and side-by-side behaving legally? Yes, under N.C. law he had the same right to that lane of traffic as any truck, car, motorcycle, or moped. Was his act of riding side-by-side legal? Again, the answer is yes. N.C. law does not prohibit side-by-side riding.

Now, let’s consider the question of whether the behavior was courteous. I think most reasonable people (motorists and cyclists) would have to give this a resounding NO. Given no safety issues forcing the cyclist to the center of the lane, the courteous thing would have been to have dropped back into single file on the shoulder and allowed the motorists to pass. “SHARE THE ROAD!” is a two way street and both cyclists and motorists must behave courteously for safe transit for all of us along our roads and byways.

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