‘Share the road’ means cars and bikes
May 10, 2006
There was some debate at The Park Record about whether to publish a comment made by Oakley City Councilmember DelRay Hatch that cyclists should be taxed to use the highways and those who didn’t pay should be fair game for motorists to run over. It was obviously an off-the-cuff comment and anyone who knows the councilman would attest that he is not a violent man. Ultimately though, in the aftermath of a fatal cycling accident earlier this spring, the staff decided that the remark made by an elected official at a public meeting was worthy of a story.
As expected, the comment riled members of the Park City cycling community who are still mourning the death of Park City resident Bill Corliss, who was hit when he fell into the path of a truck pulling a trailer of construction materials.
Since the story appeared on April 28, numerous letters to the editor and entries on The Record’s blog have exposed a high level of hostility between cyclists and motorists especially on the East Side of Summit County. Unfortunately, many of the comments that have been made are more likely to exacerbate the situation than to promote peaceful coexistence.
For his part, Councilman Hatch should apologize for an insensitive comment. While it is likely that cyclists riding through Oakley on the minimal shoulders of S.R. 32 have, at times, forced drivers to slow down and wait to pass them, his comments were inappropriate. In fact, most of the cyclists who ride through Oakley are adults who also own cars and therefore pay their share of highway taxes. Sadly, Hatch likely figured — correctly — his wisecrack would resonate at a meeting of East Side mayors in whose towns cyclists sometimes have items thrown at them from passing vehicles or are intentionally ‘dusted’ with gravel by large trucks.
However, it is unlikely, given the vicious telephone calls, e-mails and letters he has received, that Hatch or his colleagues have a higher opinion of cyclists than they did a month ago. If anything, the rift has deepened. Which means it could be a long summer of skirmishes on the road.
Bicycle-auto relationships, though, could be significantly improved if both make the effort to ‘share the road.’ Cyclists, especially those who ride with a team, need to stay on the right side of the white line, ride single file when there is no paved shoulder and obey the same traffic rules that motorists do. Drivers, first of all, need to recognize that cyclists have a right to be on the road. Secondly, they need to be aware of cyclists’ vulnerability compared to their own and therefore should err on the side of caution when passing them.
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Each year more people discover the beauty of Summit County’s rural byways on both two wheels and four. The only way to ensure that tragedy does not strike again is if cyclists and motorists respect each other’s preferred mode of transportation and share the road.