Biking bill to save cyclists

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    By TAYLOR SIMMONS

    Triathlete Dave Pepper was riding his bike when a woman driving a Lexus ? cell phone in hand ? forced him off the road.

    ?I ended up knocking on her window to get her attention,? said the senior, studying English, from Sandy. ?I fear getting run off the road every time I get on my bike.?

    A Utah State law that passed in early May is increasing awareness about the responsibility of motorists and bicyclists alike.

    House Bill 49, also known as the 3-foot bill, is already making a difference in the community, bill sponsor Rep. Rosalind McGee said.

    The bill itself received a great deal of publicity, he said. He said he thinks it awakened awareness on the part of motorists and cyclists.

    As McGee speaks with members of the cycling community, she emphasizes how important it is for cyclists to obey the laws. If they do, they will earn the respect and attention of drivers. When bicyclists run red lights and disobey other traffic signs it makes motorists unhappy, she said.

    In turn, bicyclists have to watch out for motorists.

    Richard Wilson, owner of Wilson Diamonds in Orem, has been commuting to work for 30 years.

    ?You really have to watch the roads and be careful,? he said. ?I?d have been killed a couple different times if I hadn?t anticipated drivers doing stupid things.?

    Wilson is a veteran cyclist who has biked across the country on more than one occasion. He has biked with his children from the West Coast to New York and also to Alaska. His experiences have taught him much about the danger of cycling.

    ?So many people are rude about bikes,? he said. ?People don?t realize cyclists have the same rights of way as cars.?

    Enforcement of the new law has already begun, McGee said.

    In the case of an accident, the 3-foot consideration would certainly be taken into account, she said. If there are witnesses who say the vehicle was not giving a 3-foot clearance, police will act accordingly.

    Utah State Highway Patrol, the Department of Transportation, and the State Department of Health have already stepped up in providing more safety support for Utah bicyclists, McGee said.

    Dr. John Weis, a pathology professor at the University of Utah, brought the idea for the bill to McGee?s attention.

    ?He had a very bright graduate student ? Josie Johnson ? who was hit by a car and killed last fall in Big Cottonwood Canyon,? she said.

    There were five bicycle deaths in Utah in the year 2004, McGee said. But many people were particularly concerned that Johnson?s type of collision could occur and result in death.

    Weis said motorists and bicyclists should be aware of each other and follow the laws on the road.

    ?If you get somewhere 10 seconds later because you waited for a cyclist to pass, you got there [a whole lot] sooner than if you hit the cyclist,? he said.

    A bicyclist himself, Weis said the new law has already created a better appreciation and courteous acceptance for motorists and bicyclists alike.

    New safety signs in the canyons, more bike lanes on busy roads, television commercials and newspaper articles will help educate the community about the new law.

    The state legislature awarded $20,000 to promote awareness in the community of the new safety law. Weis and other supporters of the law have compiled a list of 10 major roads in Utah to be equipped with more safety precautions.

    The work will begin the first week in July.

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