Group wants to boost cyclist safety through education

Posted June 25, 2012

— An Orange County group is trying to get area governments to endorse guidelines for bicycling safety that members say will reduce the number of crashes involving cyclists on rural roads.

The Rural Road Safety Coalition says it isn't trying to change state traffic laws, noting it also hopes that local cycling clubs and other organizations endorse the guidelines.

"The education part is important," said Maria Falbo, a cyclist and manager of The Bicycle Chain shop on Franklin Street in Chapel Hill.

According to figures from the state Division of Motor Vehicles, 92 bicyclists were killed in crashes on North Carolina roads between 2007 and 2011. There were an average of 540 wrecks involving bikes in each of those years.

Orange County had the second-highest fatality rate in the Triangle during that period, with nine cyclists killed. Twenty-six cyclists died on Wake County roads.

Falbo and cyclist Trent Cox said rural roads often pose more danger to cyclists than busy city streets.

"(There are) people throwing things out of cars, just riding too close, and then turning when I'm turning, you know, not realizing that I'm a vehicle and I have the lane," Falbo said. "Those bad experiences kind of stick with you because, you know, it only takes one time to get really hurt."

"I've had people honk at me. I've had people, you know, speed around (me) really fast," Cox said. "You sort of swerve a little bit, so it can be a little scary."

Bicyclist Recommended rules of road apply to both drivers, cyclists

The suggested safety guidelines for drivers include learning cyclists' hand signals for turning or slowing down, passing cyclists only if there is at least 500 feet of clear sight ahead and never on a curve or hill, giving cyclists at least 4 to 6 feet of space while passing and even more near driveways and intersections where gravel and other debris might force them further into the center of the road and avoiding sudden noises or erratic driving that could startle a cyclist.

Yet, veteran cyclists say they know safety goes both ways.

"Sometimes, bikers will kind of breeze through stop lights or stop signs," Cox said.

"I don't like riding in those groups where they are riding four and five abreast and taking up the whole lane and then sometimes crossing the double yellow (line), which is dangerous," Falbo said.

The suggested safety guidelines for cyclists include wearing helmets and reflective clothing and using lights and mirrors for safety, avoiding the use of headphones or cellphones while riding, breaking large cycling groups into groups of fewer than 12 riders in single file and having members of each group act as lookouts for oncoming and following traffic and spreading the message through the group.

"They are all really great ideas, you know, if we can remember that we are all just human beings trying to get some place," Falbo said.


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  • JustOneGodLessThanU Jun 28, 2012

    Saying that can't use a public road because you don't pay 1 of the dozens of taxes, is like saying that you can't call the police if you're on welfare.

    Most cyclists (I'm guessing probably 99.5%) pay taxes. In fact, in the groups I ride with, nearly everyone is a professional who owns their own house (or two), has at least one car or has their own business.

    We're not a bunch of yahoos like so many commenting here on GOLO. We're educated doctors, scientists, lawyers, etc. Keep that in mind the next time you think you know biking laws better than we do and that you can "teach a lesson" as you pass.

    This driver education program is for you. #1: Don't pass if you can't see 500' or more. Pretend we're a farmer, trash truck, bus at a stop, whatever. All of these things might cause you to have to lift your foot off the gas for a few seconds.

  • ItsASchwinn Jun 28, 2012

    By law, bicycles are vehicles and have the same rights, rules and responsibilities on the highways as other vehicles - that is to follow the laws. If you don't understand this you shouldn't be commenting, or driving any type of vehicle.
    You do not know the law if you believe; There is a minimum speed limit if one is not posted. You drive too fast to stop if there is an obstruction in the roadway ahead of you. You pass without being able to see far enough ahead to avoid oncoming traffic. You believe a bicycle must ride on the edge of the lane/road. You do not know that to pass you are required to fully change lanes. Any vehicle in a lane has full use of the width of the lane. Bicycles can be driven two or more abreast in a lane - it makes passing distance shorter and safer. ...
    Fuel taxes do not cover transportation costs, money comes from the general fund (everyone who pays federal taxes) to pay for t

  • deansquishman2 Jun 26, 2012

    The roads were built for horse and buggy---just ask the Amish

  • Come On_Seriously Jun 26, 2012

    Cheers ezLSM, Well put.

    Perhaps we have lost sight of, or rather proved, the point that everyone needs education about cycling.

    Most cyclists are also drivers, and many follow the same rules of the road, but others still think that different rules apply and should know better than to do some of the things they do.

    Not that many drivers are also cyclists, and many obviously feel that cyclists are more akin to pedestrians and should follow different rules than their vehicle does. Regardless, being a bully with one's vehicle will not turn out well for anyone. Ever.

    I say bring on Cycling Education for Everyone.

  • ezLikeSundayMorning Jun 26, 2012

    I don't know why I even post on these, it never solves anything. The problem is there are so many differences of opinion from each side that it's not even a coherent debate.

    I believe in an absolute right to transport yourself under your own power. Many drivers simply cannot stand for anyone to be in front of them, motorized or not, and they take out their frustration on cyclists. We all know each individual is different, so all the complaints about red lights and taxes are just excuses for anger. The real problem is our lives are too hectic and traffic stinks.

    Whether you believe my biking helps you with reduced traffic, pollution, and easier parking; it does help my health, my sanity, and my wallet. All I ask is that you don't target me with aggression and I'll take my chances with an accident the same as I do in my car.

  • rk1115 Jun 26, 2012

    Cyclists just need to stay off the road period. Use the sidewalks or attach the bike to the back of your car and drive to the park to ride. I dont care what you do, just stay off the roads. And whatever LAW there maybe about a bike being on the sidewalk, please you're not going to get a ticket. I'm sure a cop's not going to even waste their time. Just get off the road as you don't belong on it.

  • lucascyn Jun 26, 2012

    I have no sympathy or patience for bicycle riders on rural roads. I live on a busy rural highway that is used daily by large dump trucks, commercial trucks, tractors, school buses, etc. There are two large industrial businesses, farms, a sand pit, etc. along the route. Every day (and night - it doesn't seem to matter what time it is) there are at least three or four groups of riders who consume the entire lane, with no regard for curves or dangerous intersections. They will not move over and it's putting my life at risk (and my normal daily passenger, who is 11 years old) trying to pass them safely. Perhaps the education should be provided to teach these riders the rules of the road. Or maybe they should be required to have a driver's license or designated riding areas that are safer than a heavily-traveled highway. It's no wonder there are so many fatalities. Do they not realize their bicycle weighs about 50 lbs, and a normal size family car weighs about 4000 lbs?

  • shortcake53 Jun 26, 2012

    It amazes me how many excuses cyclists can come up with to make it everyone elses responsibility to keep them safe. Everything from preventing obesity ( had to laff at that one) to telling drivers to break at every curve, just in case. I am sure you think your completely right, but do you want to be "dead right"? Because putting yourself in the middle of traffic will more than likely end up in that result.

  • mpheels Jun 26, 2012

    ORMA and others - if you cannot safely handle your vehicle on a road with blind curves and cyclists, you should not be driving. Anytime you round a blind curve, you should be prepared to hit the brakes. In fact, most blind curves are marked with suggested lower speed limits. Just as you encounter slow moving cyclists, you could encounter a fallen tree, disabled vehicle, slow moving farm equipment... One of the first rules of driving is don't hit things in front of you. Sometimes that means going slower than the posted maximum speed.

  • Come On_Seriously Jun 26, 2012

    "You are aware of the 2010 industry report that states bicyclists slowing down big commercial tracking rigs costs the U.S. economy over 1 Billion dollars in lost time, etc. This is a "tax" imposed on all of society..." ww1

    Even if true, the obesity that cyclists tend to stave off saves everyone as health care costs keep rising in response to our overall laziness. 'Obesity accounts for $190 billion in annual U.S. medical costs ($300B according to USA Today)-or almost 21 percent of the total, according to a recent Lehigh University study. On average, obese individuals incur $2,741 higher medical bills each year than other people do, the study said.'
    Since the insured end up paying higher premiums to cover the uninsured, it affects us all.

    How's that for a 'tax' on your health and wallet?