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Thursday, August 5, 2004

Drivers, bicyclists have much to learn


Your voice: Christine Williams

Motorist harassment of cyclists is a huge problem in Cincinnati. Incidents go way beyond yelling and blowing the horn. Motorists have been known to throw objects at and/or try to hit or grab cyclists, as well as drive too close and fast, creating a true safety issue for commuters on bikes. The answer for such ignorance is education.

Ohio law states that "a bicycle is defined as a vehicle by the Ohio motor vehicle code," giving cyclists "all the rights and responsibilities as operators of vehicles." This means that cyclists, while responsible for following traffic rules, have just as much a right to the road as drivers do.

Some would argue that all cyclists should use bikeways - either separate bike paths or lanes at the edge of the road - or worse, sidewalks. Cyclists, especially experienced and faster riders, are safer when they ride in accordance with the "rules of the road." Most "bike advocates" lack cycling experience, thus advocating bikeways, which are more dangerous for cyclists than roads.

How so, you ask? Bikeways give the illusion of safety because they separate cyclists from traffic. Bikeways encourage users to use vehicular cycling skills because, being separate from traffic, they feel they are not governed by traffic laws. As a result of bikeways, people on bikes with little or no experience on roads make traffic mistakes that damage the credibility of all cyclists, contributing to motorist harassment.

For example, novice riders in a bike lane commit errors by trying to turn left from the far right, thus darting out in front of oncoming drivers may not see them. Most motorists don't yield to cyclists or pedestrians on bike lanes, sidewalks or bike paths, thus causing broadside collisions.

And, because maintenance of bikeways is often one of the first items eliminated during a budget crunch, broken glass, gravel and poor pavement conditions contribute to collision incidence. In fact, when a bikeway is present, regardless of condition, drivers tend to resent cyclists being on the road. In many cities throughout the country, bicycling is the preferred form of transportation.

City money could be better spent on cycling education programs for cyclists, motorists, politicians and police officers. "Share the road" should become our city's motto. Stay informed, educate local officials, and be a cycling advocate to help make our city "bike friendly." For more info, see www.ohiobike.org and www.bikeleague.org.

Christine Williams is a nurse anesthetist, mother of three and avid cyclist who lives in Madeira.

Want your voice here? Send your column or proposed topic, 400 words or fewer, along with a photo of yourself, to assistant editorial editor Ray Cooklis at E-mail rcooklis@enquirer.com; (513) 768-8525.




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