Trucker urges cyclist to be more aware
- Your bicycle is considered a vehicle and you have the same rights and are subject to the same provisions as the operator of any other vehicle (41-6a-1102)
- Ride as far to the right as practicable (41-6a-1105)
- Motorists may not pass within three feet of a moving bicycle (41-6a-706.5)
- Motorists may not attempt to distract a bicyclist for the purpose of causing injury or force a bicyclist off the roadway (41-6a-706.5)
- Motorists may cross the centerline (41-6a-701) or the center two-way left turn lane (41-6a-710) to pass a bicycle if it can be done safely
- Don't follow any vehicle (including a bicycle) too closely (41-6a-711)
Nearly three weeks ago, Lauri Sibulkin, an excavation truck driver from Midway, was hauling a large load along Brown’s Canyon Road when he said he encountered nearly 20 cyclists riding side-by-side.
Sibulkin said he tapped on his horn a couple of times to inform the riders that he was behind them because another vehicle was traveling toward them in the opposite direction.
“That car was coming at me and they (cyclists) just kept on riding,” Sibulkin said. “I ended up backing out of it and the other car pulled over and nothing bad happened, but my adrenaline went through the roof. It frightens me and angers me that people are so careless with their own safety.
“You put your life in my hands and I don’t want it, but I have to accept it,” he said. “If there was something that could be done to say you guys are training or for instance on this particular patch of road don’t go double wide just so we can give each other some room.”
Sibulkin works for an excavation company in Summit County driving large dump trucks and occasionally pulling an additional trailer. The vehicles, he said, can weigh anywhere from 29,000 to 62,000 pounds. He said he often encounters cyclists while traveling along South Summit and Park City roads.
“There are so many people going up to the reservoir or to Oakley and there is a lot of traffic on Brown’s Canyon and throughout that area,” Sibulkin said. “I don’t know that I speak for all my comrades, but I spend my day pretty freaked and stressed out and scared.
“I don’t want it to sound like we hate the cyclists because quite a few of us are,” he said. “We just don’t want a headline in the paper that says ‘Bicyclist killed or BMW crushed.’ We don’t want those kinds of headlines so I am just trying to raise the level of awareness in the community because these encounters happen every day.”
According to the Utah Highway Safety Office, nine cyclists were hit by vehicles in Summit County in 2014. Of those nine, seven were injured. The incidents marked the county as the 7th highest in the state for the number of cyclists hit per resident population. Preliminary numbers for 2015 show that two cyclists were hit and injured.
Lt. Harley Watkins, with the Utah Highway Patrol, said it is a legitimate concern of both cyclists and motorists, adding “who would want something like that on your conscience.” However, Watkins said encounters resulting in an injury are actually pretty rare.
“Gratefully they are not as frequent as car-to-car accidents, but when they are involved the rate of injury is a little bit higher,” Watkins said. “The biggest thing I can stress to drivers is: please don’t be distracted while driving and be a good neighbor.”
The state of Utah considers bicycles, including electric assisted ones, a wheeled vehicle that is “entitled to the same rights and subject to the same provisions as the operator of any other vehicle,” according to Utah’s traffic code.
“They don’t have to ride to the right of the white, they are entitled to the entire lane and we are required to give them three feet of clearance. But that doesn’t happen in a lot of cases,” Watkins said. “Bicyclists can help out too, though, by staying on the right end of the shoulder. What a lot of bicyclists don’t understand also is that because they are considered a vehicle they are required to abide by the same traffic laws.
Watkins said if a driver encounters a cyclist the best course of action is to “give them three feet of clearance and the sooner you can make a safe pass the better for both the rider and you as a driver.”
Todd Hageman, technical director for the Tour of Utah and an avid rider from Park City, said the conversation is not unique to this area and it is one that has taken place many times in the communities he has lived in. But in Hageman’s opinion, the situation around Summit County has gradually improved, especially within the last three years.
“Back when we were doing the talk about having a stage in Kamas two years ago we were getting a lot of resistance from residents, especially from the locals on the East Side,” Hageman said. “But I really saw a turn when the Kamas City Council and those people rallied around this event and we did something to work with the Utah Department of Transportation to install signs about sharing the road and things of that nature.
“Things were pretty tense three or four years ago, but I think we have seen a big improvement and I’m hoping cyclists are behaving themselves,” he said.
Hageman acknowledged the blame lies with both groups, adding “if there is cyclist who says they haven’t been irritated by another one they are lying.”
“But we need to keep in mind, as motorists, that you get better results with honey than vinegar,” he said. “A polite beep versus laying on the horn works. We as cyclists have to be ultra-aware as well while listening to music. It’s also important as a community to continue working to improve our roads and the shoulders on some of those roads.
“I think we are moving in a positive direction though,” he said.
For more information about the state’s laws concerning cyclists and motor vehicles, go to http://www.roadrespect.utah.gov/index.php.
“If you think about it like a layer cake, where you have a bunch of powdered sugar on the bottom and three inches of cream cheese frosting on top of it, it’s going to tip on its side – and that’s a lot like an avalanche,” Kelly said.
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