Ride of Silence

5.18.2008

 

Make Roads Safer For Bicyclists


MAKE ROADS SAFER FOR BICYCLISTS

BRIAN DIRKS
seattlepi.nwsource.com/opinion/362140_bikesafety08.html


You have seen us along rural roads, city streets or riding off a ferry: groups of bicyclists moving like a winding ribbon of metal and muscle in silvery helmets, bright-colored garb and blinking lights.

Cyclists want you to spot them. They share a love of the road, great Washington scenery, cheery camaraderie, a zeal for a healthy environment and good personal health.

We have our own language. If we see shattered glass or a pothole, down waves the hand. If a vehicle is coming, an alert of "car back" is yelled up the line to ride single file. Organized rides have a designated "ridemaster" whose job is to guide, educate and keep cyclists safe.

Even so, a few bicyclists die in this state and hundreds more around the country each year. Many more are injured from car-bike accidents. According to official statistics, there were 50 cycle fatalities on Washington roads from 2003 to 2007. Those numbers may be slight relative to the 2,578 who died in motor vehicle and motorcycle accidents over the same period, or the 343 pedestrians killed in auto-related collisions, but there aren't as many cyclists.

Slapdash motorists aren't always to blame. Sometimes the fault is traced to road conditions, mechanical issues or even the carelessness of the rider.


Some motorists would like laws to restrict cyclists from using roads for which they claim they pay with their tax dollars. That driver ignores that most cyclists are also drivers who share the tax costs of the roads. Our family fuels four vehicles and, with daily van pooling, I log more than 20,000 motor miles a year.

While the majority of motorists are courteous and provide safe distance, most road cyclists have stories of near misses. Last year a motorist lobbed a water bottle within inches of me, then circled back to yell obscenities. While pedaling in rural Pierce County last summer, a vicious dog charged while its owner stood by -- it was all I could do to outrace the beast. I now keep mace handy.

Years ago, my 72-year-old grandfather died from head injuries from a bike spill in West Seattle. It is in remembrance of him and other fallen cyclists that I will join Seattle's Ride of Silence on May 21. This is a national event organized locally three years ago.


In 2005 and 2006, nearly 1,000 riders took to Seattle streets to ride silently in memory and honor of cyclists killed and injured. In a recent article, Seattle ride organizer Gary Strauss wrote the Ride of Silence "builds awareness that cyclists have a legal right to share the roads and acknowledges the tremendous courage it takes for bicyclists to share the road."

The evening Ride of Silence is open to all. The ground rules for participation are simple: Show up and ride at no more than 12 miles per hour. There are no shirts or registration and no fees. You can get more details of the Seattle, Tacoma and other area rides by going to local bicycle club Web sites or bike shops.

We in the bicycling community hope these Rides of Silence will raise public awareness and make our roads a little safer for the thousands of adventuresome and well-meaning cyclists in our communities, for our kids, for our environment and health.

Seattle native Brian Dirks lives in Federal Way and is a recreational cyclist.



Links to this post:

Create a Link



<< Home