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Summit Bike Shop Asks Drivers, Cyclists to Respect Each Other

According to The New Jersey State Police, there have been 75 cyclists killed on NJ roads within the past five years.

On July  29th, Jackie Olson, 20, of Tewksbury found herself in the midst of a confrontation with a group of recreational cyclists.  Reporting has since been one-sided and has led to an extremely dangerous scenario by further fanning the flames of animosity amongst drivers and cyclists which can lead to deadly results.  Rather than fostering coexistence, it seems that an ever-widening wedge is being driven between both parties.  

According to The New Jersey State Police, there have been 75 cyclists killed on NJ roads within the past five years.  That number is staggering and is very alarming. By educating drivers and cyclists on obeying the rules of the road, on having mutual respect and understanding, many of those cyclists’ lives could have been spared. 

Tom Dunn of Hilltop Bicycles states that “recreational cycling has soared in popularity over the past decade by many people looking to either lose weight, save money or have a good time.  This has led to far more riders being present on the roads than ever before”.  Increased road congestion and high gas prices compel even more to commute.  Public land, like Watchung Reservation and Blue Mountain, is becoming ever more restricted to off road cycling and would-be mountain bikers have taken to the roads.  With gym prices increasing and filling to capacity at the same time, many seek cycling as a healthy fitness alternative and stress outlet to meet their weight loss goals.  All of these factors have led to more cyclists on the road which leads to more frustrations for drivers. 

Most recreational cyclists drive cars as well and are sympathetic to the grievances of drivers.  However, those same cyclists also fear for their lives when out on the open road.  If cyclists and drivers could keep in mind the following bullet points, the roads will prove to be much safer than they have in the past.

 

Cyclists must obey the rules: 

  • Drivers have as much right to use the roads as you do.
  • Obey all traffic laws.  The same ones that apply to motorists apply to you.
  • Stay as far right as possible and ride with the traffic.  Move left only to make a left turn, avoid debris or drains, or to pass a slower vehicle. 
  • Ride predictably.  Don’t expect drivers to know what you plan on doing next.
  • Travel no more than two abreast when traffic is not impeded and single file as much as possible.
  • Always wear a helmet, bright clothing and lights.  Make sure you are seen.
  • Keep your cool against aggressive or reckless drivers.  Take a picture or video if you can and call the police.

 

Drivers should err on the side of caution:

  • Cyclists have as much right to use the roads as you do.
  • Bicycles are considered vehicles.  Pass with care and at least four feet between.
  • Cyclists are moving much faster than you think.  Give yourself plenty of room to pass and/or turn.
  • They ride to the inside of the white line because the shoulder is often too debris-ridden.
  • They ride in groups to be noticed.
  • Your horn is very loud and often unnecessary.
  • They are afraid of you.
  • You can kill them.  Seriously, you can.

 

Let us learn a lesson from this unfortunate incident in Tewksbury.  Let’s put this unnecessary animosity behind us and move forward with mutual respect.  The potential outcomes of not doing so are a terrible thing to consider.  There are over 39,000 miles of public roadways in New Jersey, which should be plenty for all of us to use and enjoy.

— By Thomas Dunn

Hilltop Bicycles, Summit, NJ

Bill Schell October 05, 2012 at 12:11 PM
Great article by Tom Dunn. Agressive driving is on the increase and awareness of cyclyists gets more important each day.
Lucinda Mercer October 05, 2012 at 09:09 PM
I would add another request to drivers - use your turn indicators! Bicyclists are not mind readers and we don't know that you are planning on turning unless you tell us.
Gloria Safar October 05, 2012 at 10:46 PM
I was hit by a car while riding my bike a few years ago. I'm lucky I didn't end up as a number in the statistics Tom mentioned in the Summit patch article, but I'm terribly sorry for the unnecessary lives lost. In my accident, according to one eye witness " the driver made a left turn onto the cyclist. Just kept driving, as if the cyclist wasn't there." I was wearing a helmet, had a light colored top and had the right of way. The driver was ticketed and I suppose the car insurance policy must have gone up. Unfortunately, my family and I had it a bit harder. My then 16 years old son took the call that her mother was being transported to the trauma center in Newark, and as for me, it took me 2 years for the fog in my brain to clear. The concussion left me a bit confused. After the accident, I was later told that I thought it was winter and that Clinton was our president ( it was August '04). Now, my left jaw, shoulder and knee still hurt and I still get visits from vertigo. They are getting more spaced out though. Most of the other drivers, were fabulous. I sent thank you cards to all of the witnesses who started behind and gave detailed description so the accident to the police. It just take one distracted driver to send you over the roof and land on your head. I still ride, and I truly hope we can learn to share the road.
Emily Thompson October 06, 2012 at 12:26 AM
Tom, thank you for a great article. I think cyclists and drivers have to be better informed about safety when we are sharing the road. Today, I was very close to getting hit by the side mirror of a truck. These are the days I wonder if I should stop riding since I have three young children waiting for me at home. I love it too much to stop. All I can do is hope that I don't encounter a driver distracted by their phone or just not willing to share the road.

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