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By Karen Kefauver
June 19, 2014
Link to Sentinel Article

Kids and adults alike need to learn and practice bicycle safety. Here a girl learns the rules of the road at Open Streets Santa Cruz County 2013 on West Cliff Drive. (Karen Kefauver -- Contributed)

Kids and adults alike need to
learn and practice bicycle safety. Here a girl learns the rules of the
road at Open Streets Santa Cruz County 2013 on West Cliff Drive. (Karen
Kefauver — Contributed)

Cyclists and drivers, can’t we all just get along? Several experienced Santa Cruz County riders agree that the best way for fellow cyclists to stay safe on the road is to “act like a car.”

That means cyclists need to obey the same rules as they do when driving a car, said Myrna Sherman, a Watsonville resident who teaches adult bicycling safety classes through the Santa Cruz County Cycling Club.

“Ride tall and make eye contact with drivers,” advised Sherman, who is also a seasoned recreational cyclist, club ride leader and member of the Santa Cruz County Regional Transportation Commission’s bicycling committee.

“Start to develop a relationship with drivers. Wave to acknowledge them and say ‘thank you.’ Don’t pull up in front of cars at stop signs and red lights. Instead, get in line with the cars, said Sherman, who is launching a bike safety business, Your Cycling Buddie. “Be respectful because you never know what the car is going to do. Remember, cars are bigger than us.”

Darren Odden, a 42-year-old former emergency medical technician, recalled the dire consequences that resulted when cyclists or drivers are at fault.

“It was tragic to see an accident that could have been prevented. Car motorists are not trained to look for cyclists,” he said. “I love the sport of cycling and I want to see people be safe.”

The Seabright resident is now slowly building up his biking stamina after a triple bypass heart surgery a year ago.

“As cyclists, we need to take responsibility for our actions. Just assume that cars don’t see you 80 percent of the time,” Odden said. “Always keep that in mind when riding your bicycle on the road alongside traffic.”

Odden’s goal is to build strength to pedal to work and be a healthier father for his 22-month-old son.

Most cyclists are also drivers and can understand both perspectives.

“It’s a problem that in the past 48 hours I have been annoyed by cyclists on three different occasions — and I am a cyclist,” said Tracy Yost, a personal trainer who moved to Santa Cruz from Connecticut with her family a year ago. “One rider was on the sidewalk, another going the wrong way up Laurel Street and on the trail, downhill riders aren’t yielding to uphill riders.

“Imagine people who don’t cycle, imagine how they feel,” said Yost, clearly exasperated by cycling scofflaws.

“I’ve almost nailed people in my van,” added Odden, who is always on the lookout for riders. “When I see cops giving out tickets, I hear complaints from the cyclists. But I love it when cops hand out tickets to bikers who are running stop signs or lights because there’s a reason they are giving out tickets … I used to scrape people off sidewalks as an EMT.”

Sherman, Yost and Odden all agree on a solution for fellow cyclists to be safer on the road: follow the laws, the same ones that car drivers abide by — or should.

“Let’s set the bar high for cycling safety standards,” Yost said. “If we have safer cyclists, we will make it an even more bike-friendly community. Then we will be more respected. Instead of some cyclists doing whatever they want, whenever they want, let’s stand united.”

Karen Kefauver is a freelance writer who covers sports and travel and is based in Santa Cruz. Spin City runs on the third Friday of each month.

Tips for cycling safety

• Obey traffic signs and signals

• Use clear hand signals

• Always ride with the flow of traffic

• Be predictable; let people know what you are doing

• Make sure you are safe and visible. Wear a helmet, bright clothing and use lights at night

• Don’t ride across a crosswalk, walk your bike

• Yield to pedestrians in all situations

Santa Cruz County Cycling Club: www.santacruzcycling.org

Bike to Work and School and BikeSmart, programs of Ecology Action: www.ecoact.org

Santa Cruz County Regional Transportation Committee: www.sccrtc.org/meetings/bike-committee

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