JOHN D. RUSSELL/MORNING NEWS
By TRACI BRIDGES
Published: October 30, 2009
Updated: October 30, 2009
FLORENCE — As daylight-saving time draws to an end, local cyclists are urging drivers to be respectful and careful of riders on two wheels.
In less than two years, three members of Florence’s Pedal Pack have been struck by vehicles. Though none were seriously injured, the incidents serve as evidence that drivers need to be more aware of cyclists.
Janet Brand, a local tri-athlete, was headed home on her bicycle after a group ride two weeks ago when she was struck by a car along Palmetto Street. She doesn’t know exactly what happened but thinks the driver was trying to cross Palmetto when he hit her.
“He hit me on the left side, and a lady who saw the whole thing said I did a flip then landed on my right side,” Brand said. “I thought my leg might have been severely messed up, but the X-Rays looked good. So I’m just bruised and sore. I know God was with me, because the outcome could have been a lot worse.”
Brand said she thinks many drivers are inattentive in general, which causes problems for cyclists.
“People are on their cell phones and doing other things while they’re trying to drive,” she said. “People are in such a hurry these days, and they just don’t have any patience.”
Scott Connelly of Florence agreed and said drivers always should watch for bikers. Connelly was struck by a car while riding his bike around Lake Robinson in Hartsville in spring 2008. Connelly suffered minor neck injuries and road rash.
“I was at the base of the hill doing about 26 mph. He tried to pass another car and hit me coming into the lane,” Connelly said. “It was a 1991 Lincoln, and I took the side mirror off. It bent the frame of my bike, but fortunately I got out with scrapes and bruises.”
Under South Carolina law, a driver of a motor vehicle must at all times maintain a safe operating distance between the motor vehicle and a bicycle. It is unlawful to harass, taunt or maliciously throw an object at or in the direction of any person riding a bicycle. A person who violates the provisions of this section is guilty of a misdemeanor and, upon conviction, must be fined not less than $250 or imprisoned not more than 30 days, or both.
Any violation of the new law, including the safe passage provision, is punishable by a civil fine. The fine structure is based on injury and ranges up to $1,000.
“People aren’t watching,” Connelly said. “We’re not getting any respect out there. We do have a right to the road. We’re considered a part of traffic, and drivers don’t seem to understand that.”
SHARING THE ROAD
- Reduce speed when encountering cyclists
- In inclement weather, give cyclists extra trailing and passing room
- Recognize situations that may be potentially dangerous to cyclists and give them space
YIELD TO CYCLISTS
- Cyclists are considered vehicles and should be given the appropriate right of way
- Cyclists may take the entire lane when hazards, road width or traffic speed dictate
- Motorists should allow extra time for cyclists to traverse intersections
- Scan for cyclists in traffic and at intersections
- Do not blast your horn in close proximity to cyclists
- Look for cyclists when opening doors
PASS WITH CARE
- Leave at least three feet of space between your car and a cyclist when passing
- Wait until road and traffic conditions allow you to safely pass
- Check over your shoulder after passing a cyclist before moving back to normal position
WATCH FOR CHILDREN
- Children on bicycles are often unpredictable — expect the unexpected and slow down
- Most children don’t have adequate knowledge of traffic laws
- Children are harder to see because they are typically smaller than adults
— Source: Palmetto Cycling Coalition