The signs are here!

By Cecil Yount | Mar 01, 2012

In the last week, I’ve noted the signs. On my way to work, I’ve spotted the “early bird” indicators. At lunch, from my favorite Bicycle Friendly Business the Smoky Mountain Café, a flash in the corner of my eye let me know that one of the harbingers of the coming season was out and stretching its legs.
On other occasions, I’ve seen them darting in and out of the traffic pattern or maybe just slipping around a corner as I turn my head.
A phone call from the West Coast last week let me know that the swell is headed our way. My brother David called and said he had just paid $4.05 a gallon for gas at a cheap  place. Fortunately, he drives a Prius and commutes via bike to his work on a regular basis. So, as predicted, it is coming and coming quickly. Gas prices have jumped 13 cents per gallon just since last week.
So, what are these signs I’m noting? Well, to no one’s surprise, it is an increase in people cycling to and from work and or the stores. I’m not talking about lean fit racing types outfitted in spandex and lycra. I’m talking about work clothes clad and backpack laden individuals adjusting to the new reality of even more expensive gasoline. I’ve seen handlebars so heavily loaded with plastic bags full of groceries, I didn’t know how the rider was keeping the bike upright.
Unfortunately, I’ve also seen way too many instances of very unsafe riding occurring. I watched one rider “salmoning” (riding against the traffic) in and out of empty parking spaces on Walnut Street. I watched as that rider crossed over the road in a blind spot for oncoming traffic and then rode up the right hand side of traffic already stopped at a traffic light just waiting to make a right hand turn. The bike rider was putting him/herself in significant risk of getting run over in a move commonly known as the “right hook” wherein a car turns right and crunches a cyclist moving in a straight line.
Just today, I observed a rider cruising down the sidewalk of Main Street at basically the speed traffic was moving at the time. Perhaps the rider was unaware that it is against Town of Waynesville ordinance to operate a bicycle on the sidewalks in the downtown area. He represented a clear danger to any pedestrian stepping out of a store front.
While I’m very happy to see folks taking on personal responsibilities and actions to reduce their fuel costs, my observations also serve to remind me that we have a lot of ground to cover in educating cyclists and motorists regarding how to share the road safely. As more people take to cycling, we’re certainly going to have more cyclist/motorist interaction.
Education is a key to making that interaction a positive one. It is the responsibility of both sides of the transportation debate to make an effort to safely SHARE THE ROAD!
For more information, visit http://gr8smokieszeke.blogspot.com and www.bicyclehaywoodnc.org. You may also link to Zeke’s Great Smoky Mountain 2 Wheeled Adventures under Opinion on the Mountaineer’s website.

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