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Sharing the road
February 13, 2008
|Three bicycle bills to better bicyclists' rights|
|Mary Nolan | Staff Writer|
As Vermont takes big strides to becoming a more environmentally friendly state, the rise in bicyclists sharing the road with hybrid cars calls the safety of the cyclists into question.
From 2001 to 2005, Local Motion of Burlington reported that 4 to 11 traffic deaths were bicycle-related. The Vermont Bicycle and Pedestrian Coalistion is trying to pass three bills in the Vermont Legislature that would ensure a safer ride for those environmentally-conscious peddlers.
Share the road
The bill failed because a handful of senators objected to the language of the bill, claiming it would be difficult to enforce, Nancy Schulz, executive director of the Vermont Bicycle and Pedestrian Coalition, says.
The coalition is talking to law enforcement to discuss acceptable language for a revised bill to be resubmitted, Shulz says.
H-577, which offers law enforcement a range of penalties if someone injures or kills a 'vulnerable roadway user, is in front of the Vermont Senate Judiciary Committee at the moment.
H-578 suggests that bicycles be able to utilize the car lane to take left-hand turns and requesting cars to leave more space between them and the bicyclists when taking right-hand turns. Presently the bill is in front of the House Transportation committe.
The ideas set forth by these bills are not new, Shulz says.
“[These bills] have been successfully advanced in other states. In addition to the eight states that have it on the books, there are probably another eight that, like Vermont, have it in some stage of development at their own legislative bodies,” Shulz says.
Although the Vermont Drivers Manual makes recommendations that bear a strong likeness to these bills, they’re only suggestions, Shulz says.
Angela Irvine, faculty adviser for the Cycling Club on campus, received an e-mail a while back, along with other bike-riding members of the staff, about an online petition for the 3 foot law, she says.
Knowing students who ride their bikes to work or volunteer sites or off-campus jobs, Irvine believes these bills would definitely impact people on campus, whether students, faculty or staff.
“There are many faculty and staff that want to commute, but Route 15 is hazardous for a biker,” Irvine says. “I’ll ride up Williston Road before I’ll ride up Route 15."
Hitting the pavement
“It’s an issue of entitlement,” senior Dillion Kleptar says. “A bike somehow doesn’t have the same legitimacy right now as a car does.”
Irvine was in an accident when a car swerved around her then, further down the road, pulled into the breakdown lane, and without looking, opened the car door.
“My choice was to hit the car door or the car in the other lane,” Irvine says.
Senior Johanna Wildnauer, a member of the Cycling Club, says that drivers just don’t care. She reports unwarranted yelling and honking from motorists when she bikes on main roads.
Wildnauer always rides with a cell phone and her ID on her in case of an accident.
Klepetar rides his bike from his apartment downtown to St. Michael’s. He has been hit twice this year on Vermont Route 15. Klepetar always wears his ski helmet when he rides, he says.
“One time I got thrown off my bike under the bridge,” Klepetar says. “I was wearing my helmet, and that person stopped and made sure I was all right.”
The driver claimed she didn’t see him even though he had flashing lights on his bike, Klepetar says. He wasn’t badly hurt.
Another time, Klepetar got clipped and doesn’t even think the driver knew she hit a biker.
Responsibilty and respect
“It’s a matter of people not respecting an alternative mode of transportation,” Irvine says. “Cars need to pay attention.”
“Part of the reason the Vermont Bicycle and Pedestrian Coalition exists is to educate motorists, bicyclists and pedestrians so that everyone who uses our roads is aware that he has a right to be on the road, but also that he has a corresponding responsibility,” Shulz says.
While motorists need to understand that cyclists have the right to the road. In the same vein, cyclists have the responsibility to obey the traffic laws and respect others on the road, Shulz says.
The road is everyone’s right and also everyone’s responsibility, she says
“Don’t ride three across in the middle of the road,” Kleptar says. “Pay attention to stop signs and lights, and don’t go blowing through intersections.”
“Nothing good happens when a cyclist hits the pavement,” Irvine says.
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