Monday, February 13, 2012

Bikes vs. Cars

Last year, I participated in one of the coolest programs involving bicycle awareness, Road Respect Utah. Most other programs I have seen focus on motorists looking out for cars, but Road Respect Utah takes a different approach. The Utah campaign takes the angle that motorists and cyclists alike share the responsibility for making sure our roads are safe. And they're exactly right.

Cyclists share much of the blame as to why motorists have so much angst us. Whether its not knowing the rules of the road and lack of awareness or just outright disrespect I have seen countless cyclists riding more than 2 abreast, running stop signs and not signaling. Of course motorists share the blame as well. Many don't understand cyclists have a right to be on the road, we're tax paying citizens and cycling is a legitimate use of the road.

So where's the love? Every time I ride outside on the road, I have some sort of close call with a car. In traffic, I've learned to ride heads up and very defensively. It keeps me alive. Most of the close calls involve a driver just not seeing me but too often a driver does see me and cuts me off, passes to close, yells out their window or smokes me out with their diesel exhaust.

Its a vicious cycle and both sides need to start respecting the rules of the road and respecting each other. Cyclists, please ride single file in traffic and obey stop signs and signals. Motorists, please give us 3 feet when passing and stop pulling out in front of us, throwing things at us, yelling obscenities and smoking us out. Its pretty simple.

We need to remember things things when racing as well. Just this last weekend, the Pro/Cat 1 category at the Valley of the Sun Stage Race had a terrible accident. All I know is what's been reported and some accounts of riders I know who were there. It sounds like a law enforcement official allowed a car on the road too close to the fast approaching cyclists from behind. Apparently, the motorist had no idea what was going on and stepped on the brakes causing the leaders of the peloton to crash into the back of the car.

Most races take place on open roads. Closing roads during many races would be cost prohibitive so promoters should be doing all they can to ensure a safe race. The permits obtained for racing simply allow us to be guests on the road during the race. Its up to law enforcement, volunteers and promoters to make motorists aware of what's taking place on the road and have enough trained staff in place to make it happen. However, racers also need to be aware that cars could be present and be prudent in putting safety above racing.

Now, I don't know all the details from the Phoenix crash. I'm a racer and promoter so I'm interested in finding out more about what happened and how to avoid it in the future. I wasn't there so I can only go by what's been said to me and what I've read. But my point is we, as in motorists and cyclists, need to be more aware. Whether its racing, training or commuting to work, roads need to be a safe place to ride a bike. Cyclists and motorists can and should be able to share the road and ultimately have more "road respect".

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