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Drivers and cyclists still learning how to share the pavement: R

The Plain Dealer: Drivers and cyclists still learning how to share the pavement: Road Rant

Published: Sunday, May 15, 2011, 10:00 AM
By John Horton, The Plain Dealer

There's room for both cars and bikes on our roadways if drivers and cyclists show respect for each other.

Mary Doty looks out her windshield and sees a cyclist pedaling ahead. She's not happy about it. Her blood pressure rises. Anger begins to swell.

But rage doesn't fuel the feeling. Fear does.

"I'm just so afraid of accidentally colliding with one that the sight of a bike raises such anxiety that I subconsciously react with anger because it's even on the road with me," Doty emailed to Road Rant. Her honest self-assessment emphasized that she's willing to share the road with cyclists. She just worries about doing it safely.

That's how most people responded to a recent column question about how cars and bikes fit together on our roadways. Overall, those who emailed or called believed that two-wheeled and four-wheeled vehicles mesh fairly well.

But the comments also made clear that there's room for improvement by drivers and cyclists. State crash statistics indicate the same thing, as 11 cyclists died and more than 1,600 ended up injured last year after collisions on roadways. Overall, there were more than 2,000 crashes, roughly the same as the four previous years.

So here are a few basic tips on how cars and bikes can safely coexist:

•If you're gripping a steering wheel, show a little patience with the pedal pushers. State law regards bicycles as vehicles, and they have every right to be on the road. Don't honk and yell at 'em for not having an engine with more horsepower. It doesn't make a cyclist turn those wheels any faster.

•If you're gripping handlebars, act like you're a vehicle. That means stopping at red lights and following all the rules of the road. Remember that you can be ticketed. Also, stay as far to the right as practical to give cars room to safely pass. (Note to drivers: That doesn't mean a cyclist needs to hug the curb or the edge of the road. They do have a claim to the lane.)

Another point -- state law allows cyclists to ride two abreast. However, it's recommended they do not -- especially when in traffic, says the State Highway Patrol.

•Above all, everyone should remember two rules: Be courteous and be respectful.

Simple enough, right?