By David Riley/Daily News staff
Milford Daily News
Posted May 17, 2010 @ 12:03 AM
In a decade bicycling up to 100 miles a week around his Wayland home, Rick Cohen figures 95 percent of the drivers and cyclists he’s encountered have been respectful and safe.
It’s the other 5 percent that can give a bad name to either mode of transit – the drivers who roar past bikes a few inches away, the cyclists who breeze through red lights.
A statewide bicycling association launched a new public awareness campaign last week in hopes of making both sides more aware of the role bicycles play on the road. To Cohen, it sounds like the best bet to reduce rocky – even dangerous – encounters between motor and pedal power.
“I think, really, awareness is the best way to go, and the acceptance that we both share the roads,” said Cohen, 52, a triathlete.
The Mass. Bicycle Coalition, or MassBike, started its initiative – “Same Roads, Same Rules” – with support from the state’s transportation, public safety and recreation agencies.
“The whole idea of the campaign is to give people some key information about safe biking and safe driving around bicyclists, and not so much say, ‘Follow the rules because it’s the law,”‘ said David Watson, MassBike’s executive director. “It’s more, ‘Do it because it’s common sense.’ It’s a way to keep each other safe.”
The campaign comes after two serious accidents between cars and bikes in Natick – one late last year and another in January, when 35-year-old Colin Fitzpatrick Alloyius D’Aguiar was killed.
The campaign also coincides with Bay State Bike Week – today through Friday – and a series of bicycling events planned statewide. Its centerpiece is a website, www.sameroadssamerules.org, with tips for motorists and bicyclists alike, and a section dispelling common myths.
For drivers, for example, the site notes cyclists have the right to ride in the road, and warns against the “right hook,” when a car makes a sudden right turn across a bike’s path.
For cyclists, the site urges not to ride against the flow of traffic or alongside one another if cars cannot pass safely, among other tips.
The Mass. Department of Transportation and Registry of Motor Vehicles are featuring the campaign on their websites and displaying information at RMV branches.
MassBike is handing out spoke cards with tips for bikes on one side and drivers on the other, while also sending out street teams to talk to people, Watson said. The RMV will hand out materials, too.
MassBike kicked off the campaign after carrying out a survey that found a surge in commuter and recreational bicycling, Watson said. Of about 1,800 responses, 65 percent of respondents said they both rode and drove, he said.
It’s clear “bicyclists by and large know what they ought to be doing, but are making decisions to do something else because either they feel it’s inconvenient or they feel it’s unsafe to follow the rules,” Watson said.
“At the same time, many motorists, the majority of motorists, have no idea what the rules are or how they’re supposed to interact with bicyclists,” he said.
Watson said while he understands cyclists disagree about the safest ways to ride, following a common set of rules will make interactions between cars and bikes more predictable.
Several local cyclists agreed, seeing fault on both sides.
Len Svitenko, 34, of Northborough, often commutes a little more than 10 miles each way to his job at Staples in Framingham, mostly pedaling along Rte. 30. For the most part, drivers give him plenty of space.
One motorist called him a four-letter word, but that happens among drivers, too, he said.
It troubles him to see cyclists riding side-by-side on narrow roads in the area. Svitenko said cyclists need to respect drivers if they want respect in return.
“If we all obey the same rules and pretend like a car is a bike and a bike is a car, people would be a lot less upset,” he said. “It’s a mutual understanding, it’s mutual respect, and both sides should try to find a common ground.”
Jeff Johnston, owner of Milford Bicycle, said he sees discourtesy on both sides. Drivers who text and drive worry him, and he’s encountered motorists who honked and told him to get off the road. At the same time, he sees cyclists in dark clothes, without helmets.
“I think it certainly could help,” he said of MassBike’s campaign. “You’re going to see more and more cyclists, and I think people are going to become more and more aware anyhow. I think it can’t hurt.”
Henry Trujillo, 51, of Hopkinton, who rides recreationally, said he’s a fan of the “three feet please” campaign, which asks drivers to give cyclists three feet of space when passing. That also allows cyclists to avoid hazards on the side of the road without weaving into traffic, he said.
For more information, visit the Same Roads, Same Rules website, or visit massbike.org/bsbw for more on Bay State Bike Week.