In previous columns I've discussed safety factors between 4-wheel vehicles and our 2 or 3 wheel cousins the motorcyclists. Now it's time to look at a very large and growing class of roadway users, the bicyclists.
According to the Atlanta-based Centers for Disease Control and Prevention more than a half-million bicyclists in the US are treated in hospital emergency departments, and more than 700 die from bicycle-related injuries.
While I was raised in the one-and-three-speed era, my trusty black bike with its gooseneck and riser handlebars got me wherever I needed to go without a helmet. I'm amazed I'm still here now that I think back on it.
Today, it is an entirely different world with sleek, very light and very fast cycles ridden by pencil-thin men and women who are dressed like a rolling billboard. They often travel groups. They are bent over in the racing position and going faster than I ever did. I'm envious.
However, one day not too long ago one of these cool-looking guys was cruising along safely in a clearly marked bike path on the side of the road and he slid across a manhole cover. He and his bike almost became one of those annual statistics. For both our sakes I was only doing 35 mph and, thankfully, he was just far enough ahead that I was able to stop as he hit the pavement directly in front of the car. Fortunately he was not badly hurt.
When the Georgia General Assembly earlier this year passed the three-foot clearance law for motorized vehicles to pass bicyclists, it seemed a good idea given the increasing number of people who are on their two wheel bicycles these days.
Sometimes bicyclists get a bit gutsy riding two or three abreast, and sometimes motorists get frighteningly close to the bikers and that doesn't make either group look good, but bicyclists have a right to be on the road, too, so we really do have to all get along.
Bicyclinginfo.org is the Website of the Pedestrian and Bicycle Information Center funded by the U.S. Department of Transportation and maintained by the Highway Safety Research Center of the University of North Carolina and the Pedestrian and Bicycle Information Center.
This and other bicycle safety Websites have very useful information of interest to both the cyclists and the motorists about ways to coexist and share the roadways, how to improve access to transit, and roadway law enforcement. There's also good information about the promotion of bicycling and health and finding solutions to how the motorized and peddling world can get along.
Since many people are switching from cars to bikes to get to and from work for both financial and health reasons, and sport biking has become very popular, motorists should be familiar with how they can help the cause by learning more about passing safety, roadway courtesy and helping to solve community transportation problems like finding ways to increase the number of roads with bicycle lanes.
A 2009 survey by the League of American Bicyclists noted that biking and walking make up 11.9 percent of all trips in the US, up from 9.5 percent in 2001. Biking and walking are clearly both up in the last several years, according to the survey.
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) reports 51,000 pedalcylists were injured in motor vehicle traffic crashes in 2009 and about 8,000 were age 14 and younger. Isn't that reason enough to think about roadway cooperation?
David Colmans is the executive director of the Georgia Insurance Information Service. Contact him at (770) 565-3806 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.