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