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Drivers, cyclists must truly share the road

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

To the editor:

In recent weeks, Indiana has experienced an unsettling spike in the reports of bicyclists and pedestrians struck by automobiles. Wednesday's crash involving a team of cyclists in Bloomington was only the latest in a string of incidents resulting in everything from minor injuries to fatalities.

By pointing this out, I don't mean to suggest that anything sinister is at work, or even that we are experiencing a trend. But the headlines do point to one clear and simple truth: We all must be vigilant when two-ton motor vehicles share the road with runners, cyclists, workers and others.

That's why Bicycle Indiana and other cycling groups and enthusiasts across Indiana are encouraging our state's lawmakers to enact a "Vulnerable Road Users" law in the coming legislative session.

A "Vulnerable Road Users" law outlines penalties for careless, negligent or distracted driving that results in injury or death to a "vulnerable road user," a category that would include not only bicyclists, but also pedestrians, motorcyclists, construction workers and others who share the roadway with cars and trucks. Oregon and Delaware have passed such laws, and other states are developing the legislation as well.

When coupled with laws that define the rights and responsibilities of the vulnerable road users -- for example, laws that describe the measures cyclists must take to ensure their own safety -- a vulnerable road users law could help protect everyone on the road.

However, as important as this law can be, we know it will do little to save lives unless it is complemented by a real desire to share the road safely. We must all -- cyclists, drivers, pedestrians and anyone else on the roadway -- remain vigilant and alert at all times.

As cyclists, we at Bicycle Indiana expect our peers to ride safely, to obey the laws of the road and anticipate dangerous conditions.

As drivers, we expect our peers to remain focused when driving.

Tragedy is only a quick distraction away.

No law can anticipate every situation, and no amount of vigilance can prevent every tragedy. We understand that not all accidents are the result of carelessness or negligence.

But also know that, if we all strive to truly share the road and do all we can to put an end to distracted and reckless driving, then we can avoid seeing as many tragic headlines as we've seen in recent weeks.

Nancy Tibbett

Executive Director

Bicycle Indiana