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Coalition urges safety measures after bicycle fatalities increas

The Kennett Paper: Coalition urges safety measures after bicycle fatalities increase

Published: Wednesday, June 02, 2010

By Rich Hoffman

Bicyclist fatalities in Pennsylvania doubled last year over 2008, according to the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation. Chester County had none last year and only one since 2001.

According to PennDOT, 16 bicyclists were killed in the state last year. Chester Country's last reported bike-related fatality was in 2008, but others have needed emergency treatment after bike crashes.

"We don't have any proven reasons for the increase in bicycle fatalities," PennDOT spokeswoman Alison Wenger said, though a rise in gasoline prices prompting more commuters to take their bicycles to work is one possible explanation.

PennDOT has issued instructions on how bicyclists can be safer. The tips include basic rules to follow when riding a bicycle, such as being visible to motorists and following all traffic laws. All of the department's safety information can be found online at www.drivesafepa.org. The department also encourages riding bicycles for exercise.

PennDOT also encourages parents to teach children safe riding at a young age. Of the 18 bike-related fatalities in the state last year, four were riders under age 18.

Locally, the Chester County Cycling Coalition also encourages bicycling safety. But Ellen Zadoff, a coalition co-chairwoman, said the safety of bicyclists is also the responsibility of motorists.

"We were a little upset with what PennDOT released," Zadoff said. "It is true that there are cyclists who disobey the rules, but a motorist won't be hurt by that. Cyclists have the same rights as motorists on the road, and it is the responsibility of the motorist to pass them safely."

An important point, he said, is for motorists and bicyclists to share the roads and have consideration for each other.

"Most important is the need to live harmoniously," agreed Viktor Ohnjec, vice president of the West Chester Cycling Club. Ohnjec said cyclists' exposure to injury by accident is always greater than for a motorist.

The coalition also says the answer to better safety is to have more cyclists on the road rather than shying away from motor vehicles.

"More cyclists on the road make it safer because drivers will expect to see people on the road," Zadoff said.