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GUEST EDITORIAL that appeared in the Internet Edition of the Daily PressSeptember 15 2000

By TIM MATTHES

     Vehicle/bicycle accidents have resulted in the deaths of two Silver City cyclists in just a little more than a year. These events have caused understandable concern within the Silver City cycling community, and have led to lengthy discussions about the possible causes and overall relationship between cyclists and vehicle drivers.
In the first accident, the cyclist was riding on the portion of New Mexico 90 that is divided, with two lanes in each direction. According to the motorist, the cyclist was riding on the shoulder of the road and moved on to the road in front of the car. In the second case, the cyclist was riding on the shoulder of the road on U.S. 180 East and was run over by a vehicle turning into a business parking lot.
     Based on these accidents, and cyclists' observations while riding, it seems that driver inattention is a major problem. Activities like talking on cell phones, adjusting stereos, and attending to children in restraint seats can take a motorist's attention off the task of driving.
     The second driver told police he "didn't see" the cyclist. The first hit a cyclist who moved over slightly, even though almost two full lanes of road were available for maneuvering and/or passing him.
Lack of knowledge of the regulations that govern cycling also enters into the problems cyclists and motorists have in getting along. Some people, motorists and cyclists, think that bicycles are to be ridden against traffic. The fact is that traffic regulations specify that bicycles are to be operated just like a car. Cyclists who ride against traffic are asking for trouble, and are the cause of 25 percent of car/bicycle collisions.
     Based on the many occasions cyclists are chastised verbally for "being on the road," it's obvious that a small segment of the drivers in the Silver City area aren't aware that the law not only allows bicycles to be ridden on the road, but requires that bicycles be ridden there. It is illegal per state and city regulations to ride a bicycle on the shoulder of the road. The cyclist who died in the second accident, had he lived, would have been cited for riding off the road, as indicated on the accident report. It should be noted here that in spite of the law, most cyclists use the road shoulder when one is available, rather than risk antagonizing motorists.
     Cyclists generally take less of their right to the road than the law allows them. Traffic regulations allow them to ride two abreast, use left-turn lanes, and move left in the lane to avoid obstacles or when the lane isn't wide enough that a bicycle and auto can safely co-exist.
     "Road rage" and impatient and aggressive drivers also complicate the life of the cyclist. Although Silver City is generally a bicycle-friendly community, a small element of motorists make life interesting for cyclists by using their ve-hicle as a virtual weapon.
     Complicating this situation is the apparent fact that a small, but dangerous, minority of motorists categorize all bicyclists as "environmentalists" and/or "hippies," and therefore feel justified in cursing at them, throwing objects at them or otherwise threatening them. The fact is that the Silver City cycling community is anything but a bunch of hippies. It includes a truck driver, automobile salesman, bank CEO, retired veteran, retired Army officer, upper-level Phelps Dodge manager, physician's assistant and a re-tired electrical engineer.
     Bicyclists are far from totally innocent in this scenario. Running stoplights and/or signs, riding the wrong way on one-way streets, riding against traffic, advancing between lanes of stopped cars and stoplights, cutting corners and other inconsiderate behavior are not only illegal, but cause motorists to become aggravated at cyclists in general.
     So, what's to be done to make Silver City roads safer for cyclists? Cyclists need to do their part by abiding by traffic regulations, making themselves visible by wearing brightly colored clothing, and riding predictably. Motorists can help by staying focused on driving and exercising a bit more patience.
     Most important, cyclists and motorists need to respect each other's rights to be on the road. Applying the Golden Rule would go a long way to making life safer and more congenial for everyone.

EDITOR'S NOTE: Tim Matthes is a member of the Silver Spokes Bicycle Club and a triathlete who puts in about 100 miles per week on his bicycle.


Silver may try to increase "biker friendliness"

By MELANIE FULLER
Daily Press Staff


Silver City's one bicycle lane, located on Little Walnut Rd., doesn't seem to do cyclists that much good, Mike Sauber, local bike advocate and co-owner of Gila Hike and Bike, told Mayor Terry Fortenberry on Wednesday afternoon.
"The lane collects debris, making it an unwelcome path for cyclists," Sauber said. "The lanes need to be maintained by the street sweepers."
Sauber, bike advocate Tim Matthes and Tom Trowbridge, president of New Mexico Alternative Transit, met with Fortenberry to discuss ways to make Silver City a more bicycle-friendly place.
The top reasons to ride a bike, as listed by NMAT, include increased mobility, exercise and fresh air.
According to Trowbridge, in order to be recognized by the League of American Bicyclists, Silver City must meet several criteria, including the establishment of a written policy to develop and maintain bicycle-safe streets and pathways; a budget of at least $1 per capita per year on bicycle facilities and activities; a proclamation recognizing May as National Bicycle Month and encouraging citizens to observe Bike-to-Work Day; and recognition of a citizens' Bicycle Advisory Committee and designation of a bicycle-issues contact person on government staff.
"There are no cities in New Mexico that have qualified as bicycle-friendly communities," Trowbridge told the Mayor. "I urge you to make Silver City the first."
Compared to other streets in New Mexico cities, Trowbridge said, Silver City's streets are in relatively good condition.
"I think your town is ideal for cycling," he said.
According to Matthes, Silver City's Comprehensive Plan, developed in 1996, includes a map, courtesy of Engineers Inc., detailing recommended bicycle lanes and signed bike routes in and around city limits.
Hudson Street will have bike lanes designated when it is repaved, which is expected to occur within the next couple of years.
Funding seems to be the only concern, Fortenberry said.
According to Trowbridge, there's plenty of federal funding available — it's just a matter of applying for it. "Congressman Joe Skeen should be able to help with that," he said.
Also on the agenda for making Silver City a bicycle-friendly town is the installation of bike parking at area businesses.
Local bicycle club, Silver Spokes, has offered to share the costs of bike racks, Matthes said.
NMAT is a nonprofit 501(c)3 membership organization based in Santa Fe, where standards have recently been adopted by the City Council to designate bike lanes on main thoroughfares and adjacent roads.
According to Trowbridge, the average New Mexican travels 18,000 miles per year and spends more than 50 cents per mile in vehicle operating costs.
"Bike utilization can cut into that cost," he said. "Where are all the cars going to go when the people really start to move into Silver City?" he asked.

For further information, call Sauber at 388-3222, or Trowbridge at (505) 470-5481.

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International Mountain Bicycling Association Articles

The Following Articles are not necessarily the opinion of Gila Wilderness dot.com. They are provided as resources for Mountain Bikers & an avenue to stimulate responsible Biking.

A Trail of One's Own?
Share The Trails
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Liability Primer
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Fallen Trees and Trail Maintenance
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Clinton's Initiative

The International Mountain Biking Association has been a terriffic resource check out there site here

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