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Bicyclists, motorists mix in close quarters

The Star Telegram: Bicyclists, motorists mix in close quarters

Posted Monday, Aug. 29, 2011

BY SUSAN MCFARLAND

Riding solo, in pairs or packs, bicyclists in northeast Tarrant County can be seen on any given day along the hills of Keller, Westlake, Roanoke and Trophy Club.

Sam Sellers is among them.

The 54-year-old Keller resident is an avid bicyclist who rides 20 to 30 miles per day, even in the heat.

He rides for fitness, fun and to prepare for bicycle events such as the one he organizes-- the North Texas Bicycle Rally, held annually in the fall.

"It's mostly for exercise and stress release," Sellers said. "It's great training."

For Sellers, sharing the road with motorists is a bigger challenge than the ride itself, especially because there are no designated bicycle lanes on the 20 mile loop that he and his friends normally ride.

"I've been ran off the road a couple of times," he said. "Mostly someone on their cell phone or texting."

Sellers said the one thing he has learned, is to make eye contact with drivers at intersections.

"When I make eye contact with them, I know they see me," he said.

Sellers said he wishes more cities had bicycle lanes and also wishes more laws were in place to protect riders, such as keeping motorist at least three feet away from bicyclist when passing.

"We would be ecstatic if we could get some dedicated bike lanes," he said.

Pam Sellers, Sam's wife, said though most of the time the close calls are an accident, some motorists scare riders on purpose.

"When vehicles try and pass the cyclists, some get as close as they can," she said. "It's scary."

April Reiling, public information officer and marketing manager for Trophy Club said the city does not have designated bicycle paths.

Reiling said the main concern of police is to make sure bicyclists are staying on the main roads and following the same rules made for drivers.

"They are not supposed to be riding on sidewalks," Reiling said. "We try to educate bicyclists about the rules of the road such as using their hand signals to indicate where they are turning."

Trophy Club Police Chief Scott Kniffen said even with many riders in the area, accidents involving motorists and bicyclists have been few and far between.

"Bicyclists are treated like any other vehicle," he said. "They follow the same rules of the road including stop signs."

Clarence Muller, co-owner of Mad Duck Cyclery in Grapevine, said his greatest concern is safe passing.

"Most other states have passed laws giving bicyclists protection," Muller said.

Muller said the group he rides with each Sunday is usually 100 riders strong, making it difficult to stay single file.

"We try and ride two abreast," he said.

Muller said the misunderstanding is that even though the cyclist should go as far to the right as practical, often times it isn't safe because of gutters, potholes or cracks in the road.

The law allows cars to pass bicyclists as close as they want," Muller said.

"They can be one inch from you and that's fine," he said "It's a frightening thing for the cyclists to be that close. When you are going 15 and the car is going 50 it's a frightening feeling. I've been knocked off once and plenty of people I know have been too."

Scott Bradburn, community relations officer with the Keller Police Department, said bicyclists should stop at stop signs, slow down at yield signs, adhere to traffic lights, stay on the right hand side of the road when permissible and travel the same direction that traffic is flowing.

Bicycles at night also must have a white light on the front of the bike and a red reflector on the back, Bradburn said.

"The complaints I hear from motorists about cyclists generally are they are not abiding by the rules of the road," he said. "With cyclists, I hear the motorists are not yielding for them when they have the right of way."

Bradburn said many motorists are not willing to share the road.

"The motorists have either come close to hitting them or have caused the cyclist to run off the road," he said. "To be safer with one another, I would advise the motorists to be more patient."

Bradburn said often times, cyclists are on a road with only a single lane.

"Be patient and wait to go around the cyclist and do not get upset with the cyclist," he said. "Often the roadways do not have a bicycle lane, therefore creating these situations in which the motorist has to go around the cyclist."

Bradburn said the cyclist must understand there are more vehicles on the road than bicycles.

"Adhering to the rules of the road, particularly riding on the far right hand side of the road creates less problems," he said.

Bradburn said motorists should remember there are other forms of transportation on the road besides motor vehicles.

"We all must remember to share the road," he said.