Guest Comment: Bicycle riding in the Santa Cruz Valley
October 4, 2009

 

   

Guest Comment: Bicycle riding in the Santa Cruz Valley

 
By Tony Crosby
Cycling in the Santa Cruz Valley is a healthy activity enjoyed by people of all ages. Each one of us makes certain assumptions each time we cycle out of our driveway: our equipment and body will be up to the task, the roads will be safe of unmarked hazards, and other users will behave in a responsible manner.  Each one of us knows, unfortunately, this is not always true. Bad things do happen like the recent tragic death of Jerome Featherman while cycling in a bicycle lane on Desert Bell in Green Valley. 

I would like to point out some things that have and can be done to make cycling safer.  You may have noticed the Bicycle Friendly Community signs that have been appearing in the area.  This is a result of Tucson and Eastern Pima County receiving Gold Status from the League of American Bicyclists and should serve to remind us, drivers and cyclists alike, of our responsibilities on the road.

In our area local advocates have worked many years to improve the cycling environment. One recent accomplishment is the publication of a bike map for Green Valley, Sahuarita, and surrounding areas now available at the Chamber of Commerce, local bike shops, and other locations.  This map categorizes the routes used by local cyclists familiar to the area and will help visitors and newcomers find suitable areas to ride.  I invite all of you to visit the Web page of the Santa Cruz Valley Bicycle Advocate Committee for an online version of this map and much more information on the activities of the SCVBAC and useful related links: http://www.scvbac.org”www.scvbac.org

One perennial hot button issue is the rules of the road and how they apply to bicycles and to the car-bicycle mix.  The law can be found in Title 28—Transportation of the Arizona Revised Statutes.  These rules are available on the Internet by searching for “Arizona Traffic Laws,” then typing “bicycle” in the Title 28 search window.

A much more handy reference is provided by the “Share the Road” booklet published by Pima County and available at many locations, including local bike shops.  This booklet includes a summary of Arizona, Pima County, and Tucson bicycle laws and sections of useful safety tips for both bicyclists and motorists.  Most adult cyclists are also drivers but many drivers are not cyclists. A quick read of “Share the Road” would help non-cyclists appreciate the special problems faced by riders.  Perhaps worth mentioning is that these laws are also contained on the Tucson Metro Bike Map and that the new Santa Cruz Valley Bike Map contains a timely topic,what to do in a Roundabout, that is informative for motorists, riders, and pedestrians.  I‘ve purposely avoided enumerating the laws, including ARS 28-815: Riding two abreast, as they are so readily available.

Of course, what is legal may well conflict with what common sense dictates. Two cyclists legally riding side-by-side may be fine on a straight road with good visibility and adequate space for passing but would be ill advised on a winding road with limited visibility and no shoulder.  I find most drivers in the area extremely courteous in giving a wide berth while passing. The 3-foot passing rule is a minimum and all cyclists appreciate extra clearance.  The real danger exists when drivers are distracted, limited in their judgment or skills, or perhaps just in a hurry and insist on making an unsafe pass that does not provide adequate separation between the motor vehicle and bicycle.

Motorists must be aware that unless they are capable and attentive to the job of driving they should not get behind the wheel. Anything less is an irresponsible act.  It’s often said that bicyclists are their own worst enemies. True, but the cycling community should not be judged as a whole by the behavior of a few.  Clearly we do not expect 6-year-old rider in Sahuarita to have the experience or awareness of danger of a 60-year-old in Green Valley.

What pains me is when adult cyclists, who know better, don’t follow the rules and do something like blow through a four-way stop at 25 mph in front of other traffic.  They endanger themselves and cause drivers to do a slow boil, leaving them with a really bad impression of cyclists in general.  Bicyclists please do your best to ride responsibly and help make us an even more bicycle friendly community.

Anyone wishing further information can contact any member of the SCVBAC via our Web site.  We welcome new members and will be restarting our monthly meetings Oct. 7, at 3 p.m. in the GVCCC conference room.

Tony Crosby is a member of SCVBAC. The views expressed are the writer’s own and do not necessarily reflect those of this newspaper.