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Lethal Summer for Sonoma County Cyclists

What can be done to make the roads safer for bike riders?

It's been a lethal summer for Sonoma County cyclists, with five people killed since mid-May and many more injured in altercations with cars.

The latest incident occurred on Thursday when a Santa Rosa man was run over by a driver who chased him onto a golf course. The driver has been arrested and charged with assault with a deadly weapon while the cyclist recovers from a broken wrist.

But a new bill aims to reduce altercations between cars and bikes by requiring drivers to give bicyclists at least three feet of clearance when overtaking them from behind the same lane.

The legislation--SB1464-- has already been approved by the California Senate and will be considered by the state assembly next. Proponents say it gives drivers a clear, measurable and objective standard for how to pass bicyclists safely and helps prevent cyclists from being hit from behind, the leading cause of cyclist fatalities. 

But is it enough? Or do cities need to do more to improve infrastructure for cyclists and charge motorists who hit bike riders? (So far only two Sonoma County drivers have been charged.) And will creating a minimum distance between cyclists and cars help prevent accidents?

Share your thoughts in the comments below.

Dee Baucher August 21, 2012 at 03:47 PM
Sonoma county is composed of numerous individual communities laced throughout mountainous and scenic geography. The sinuous two-lane roads that once allowed for travel between towns, were never anticipated or intended to provide the major routes for such a huge volume of commuters or vehicular traffic as we have today. These roads were intended to provide slow, but safe routes for farm machinery between towns, and the small volume of cars that typically were generated by communities that were only a fraction of their current sizes. Our county has been allowed to balloon in development, far beyond any reasonable prediction, over the last few decades. Yet those in local government, who have encouraged and fostered this unrestrained growth, have failed to analyze or address the infrastructural realities of our inadequate roads to accommodate the volume of cars. Now, to add insult to injury, those same unrealistic minds want to add recreational bike riders into the fray. This is beyond stupidity. The roads we have are over-utilized and precarious because their design was never intended to support massive car volume. Drivers who must use these routes become frustrated and impatient, attempting to use these inadequate roads to travel between towns. These are not appropriate roads to add volumes of leisurely recreational bike riders, because it is not safe. If our county wants to encourage recreational bike riders, then bike paths need to be constructed for that purpose.
Angela White August 21, 2012 at 05:55 PM
Dee, you are absolutely correct. I hope your message reaches those people who are making these decisions. To think that a 3 foot law is going to make a difference in drivers behavior is, to me, very foolish. People should be giving cyclist at least that when they pass them anyway! We have a cell phone law yet I constantly see people talking/texting while driving. What's amazing to me is how few police officers you see in Sonoma to enforce these laws. With the mix of people drinking and driving as well as drinking and biking it's a wonder we don't hear about accidents every weekend.
Alexandra Charsley August 21, 2012 at 07:30 PM
What about cyclists that do not adhere to road rules?
Kris August 31, 2012 at 05:26 PM
Exactly. What if the cyclist moves more into the road, who gets the ticket? Bikes need bike paths or bike lanes, not more rules on how to be in the same lane with a car. They have no break lights, no turn signals, no mirrors. How is this safe for anyone?

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