Valdosta Daily Times

What We Think

October 20, 2012

The roads belong to cyclists too

-- — Georgia state law is clear when it comes to bicycles — they have as much right to be on the roads as other vehicles. So why is it so difficult to get drivers to understand that cyclists are not a nuisance and must be treated as another vehicle would be.

Unfortunately, accidents such as the one profiled on the Times’ front page today highlight the generally cavalier attitude of drivers in the area when it comes to yielding the road to cyclists. The rant and raves often include misguided comments made by vehicle drivers who have no compassion for cyclists nor do they seem to understand the law.

For their own protection, cyclists must bear the lion’s share of the burden when it comes to safety. It is up to cyclists to wear reflective clothing and safety helmets, and to ensure their bikes have reflectors and lights. Cyclists have to obey traffic laws as vehicles do, which means stopping at stop signs and intersections, and ensuring that they are visible to drivers, and riding in a safe manner.

Driver distraction and inattentiveness as well as the lack of understanding of the rights of cyclists leads to dangerous and often fatal or near-fatal accidents. And there are far too many in this community.

It is true that having to share the roadways is not an ideal situation. When vehicles hit bikes, it’s not generally the vehicle drivers who are at risk. A vehicle weighing thousands of pounds driving at even low speeds can seriously hurt or kill a cyclist.

It is unfortunate that Valdosta-Lowndes County doesn’t offer more bicycle lanes on roadways, and bike trails for recreational riders.

It’s a goal for the community and needs to be a higher priority as cycling isn’t just for exercise, but provides the primary means of transportation for a number of individuals in the community, particularly college students.

Perhaps reading the story of a man whose legs used to propel him for miles on local roadways now fighting for the ability to walk again will help bring the message home to drivers in this community. Not just traffic law but basic human decency means giving cyclists the respect on the roadways they deserve.

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