Learn to share the road

Several years ago I read a study that correlated the number of bicyclists on a city's streets with the number of bicycle-automobile accidents.

The results were surprising.

You'd think that as bike riders go up, bike-car accidents would rise. This study found that while there were more bike-car accidents overall, the proportionate number of accidents was fewer. In other words, the more cyclists on the road, the smaller the likelihood an individual cyclist would be in a bike-car accident.

The authors of the study concluded that as motorists become more accustomed to seeing cyclists, they amend their driving behavior to safely share the road.

There aren't many bicyclists in Carson City, though my cycling friends and I are convincing ourselves that there are more and more every year. Yet in my years of using my bicycle as a primary mode of transportation, I've only encountered one rude and aggressive driver. The rest have been courteous and safe. '

But sometimes I think drivers have a right to get mad at some of the cycling behavior I see around town - riders blowing through red lights without even slowing down, riding against the traffic, riding at night with no lights. My theory is that drivers get mad when they get scared, and it's scary to have a close call with a bicyclist and realize that you came close to injuring or even killing another person .

So in honor of Bike to Work Week this week (I hope everyone gets out on their bike at least once this week, check Muscle Powered' webpage for events) this column is about sharing the road.

Motorists: The Nevada state legislature passed two laws in the last session that have to do with safely sharing the road. The new three-foot passing law requires drivers to allow at least three feet of space between their vehicle and the bicyclist they are passing. If the lane is not wide enough to pass this way and stay within the lane, drivers must wait - just as you do when passing any other slow-moving vehicle - until there is no traffic coming the other way and use a part of the opposing lane to pass safely.

Another new law is designed to protect bicyclists and pedestrians against reckless driving. The Vulnerable Users Law adds additional penalties for careless driving when vulnerable users are affected, including hefty fines and driver's license suspension. And I hardly need to add that the new law against cellphone talking and texting while driving will protect bicyclists and pedestrians too. Do you really want to endanger someone's life so you can answer a phone call?

Bicyclists: The rules of the road apply to you too, so follow them. Ride predictably. Dress to be seen. Use lights after dark. Muscle Powered will publish the third edition of its free Carson City Bicycle Route Map and Safe Cycling Guide next month. The back of the map is a primer on safe cycling, so if you or anyone you know (your kids?) need a refresher on sharing the road, pick one up. They'll be available at the Muscle Powered bike valet at the 3rd and Curry Street Farmer's Market, at the Convention and Visitors Bureau, Carson City Parks and Rec, and other locations.

• Anne Macquarie, a private-sector urban planner, is a longtime resident of Carson City.


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