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Bicycle battle

Make room on the road, cars. Bikes belong there, too

 by Lisa Przystup
 published on Thursday, September 7, 2006


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Bicyclists seem to exist in a transportation purgatory that is often closer to hell than heaven.

Walking pedestrians consider them to be a nuisance just a step below actual vehicles. Actual vehicles consider them just a step above walking pedestrians, sometimes even veering into bike lanes as if only cars have the right to be on the road.

The bicyclists themselves simply find solace in trading war stories and sometimes joining local bicycle coalitions or riding clubs.

According to the Arizona Driver License Manual, "Motorists should be alert for bicyclists along the roadway because cyclists are often difficult to see. Extra caution is necessary."

But officer Brandon Banks, a Tempe Police Department spokesman, says he still sees plenty of bike accidents.

"The most common violation I see committed by cars toward bicyclists is failure of the motorist to yield to bicycles in the crosswalks," Banks says.

Banks advises motorists to be aware of their surroundings, especially in Tempe because of the increased number of pedestrians and bicyclists. This increase is mainly due to the University, which is considered to be a school zone. This means that the speed limit around ASU is 35 mph.

Also, failure to yield to a bicycle in a crosswalk is a violation that comes with a $152 ticket.

Banks says bicyclists must also take responsibility for their safety.

"I can't tell you how many times I see cyclists riding against the flow of traffic," says Banks. "The majority of bicycle accidents are a result of a bicyclist riding in the wrong direction."

In addition, bicyclists are required to equip their bike with a light on the front and a reflector on the back, obey all the rules of the road (which includes stopping at stop signs) and use hand signals when appropriate.

ASU alumna Julie Kraugh says she relies on her bicycle as her main form of transportation, riding up to four miles to work every day.

Kraugh says she's had her fair share of close calls with cars, one resulting in a collision this past July. Kraugh says she was going south on McClintock Drive and crossing Broadway Road when a car turned right on a red light and hit her.

"Luckily, I was OK. But he just hit me and kept going," Kraugh says.

Psychology junior Lauren Alameter says she has been hit twice on her bike in her neighborhood near campus.

The first time Alameter was hit, she says she was going east on University Drive toward ASU. A car cut her off in the bike lane near Buffalo Exchange.

"My bike's front tire hit the car's back tire," Alameter says. "The guy just looked in his rearview mirror and waved in acknowledgement but didn't even get out."

The second time Alameter was in an accident was when a car backed out of its driveway at night. Despite the light on the front of her bike, the driver didn't see her.

"I swerved to get out of the way and ended up sandwiched in between his car and a parked car," she says, adding that she wasn't hurt in either incident.

It's situations like Alameter's that have led many cities to form bicycle clubs and coalitions that advocate for cyclists and organize "take back the night" style bike rides.

In Arizona, the Coalition of Arizona Bicyclists and the Arizona Bicycle Club provide refuge for like-minded bicyclists. Last September, Undergraduate Student Government announced the reopening of the USG Bike Co-op, located on the south side of the Student Recreation Complex on ASU's Tempe campus. The Bike Co-op provides the ASU community a low-cost alternative to bike maintenance and repair.

So strap on a helmet, attach a reflector and hold on tight to your handlebars if biking is your mode of transportation in Tempe.

Reach the reporter at: lisa.przystup@asu.edu.



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