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Old 08-07-08, 01:25 AM   #1
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Local bicyclists fight for a piece of the road

I thought this a good explanation of cyclists everyday hassles with motorists
GRAND RAPIDS -- On his commute to work one recent morning, Ryan Moore was sideswiped by a pickup. His injury was minor, but the fact he was riding a bike at the time made it all the more dangerous.

Moore was complying with the traffic laws, riding in the right lane on Burton Street SE between East Paris Avenue and East Beltline Avenue, when the truck's mirror hit him on the left elbow. Being within his rights didn't guarantee he was safe from a motorist who was unwilling to share the road.

"I'm not going to win against a car," Moore said.

He is among a growing number of commuters who are choosing to pedal rather than pay $4 a gallon for gas, increasing the odds of violent encounters between bicycles and motor vehicles. Area bike shops saw an increase in sales this summer about the time gas crossed the $4 mark.

"We're so busy we can't keep up with it," said Gordon Bryan, owner of the Freewheeler Bike Shop in Grand Rapids
Added Dale Phelps, owner of four Grand Rapids-area Village Bike & Fitness shops: "I remember people saying, 'If gas hits $2 a gallon, I'm going to ride my bike,' Then it hit $2, and I didn't see a change in habit, and then it hit $3, and I didn't see a change of habit, and then it hit $4.

"People are finally sick of it. Within the last six to eight weeks, we've seen more people coming in and saying, 'I'm going to commute (by bicycle) two or three times a week.'"

Some ride for fitness, some for environmental reasons, he said, but for many, the rising price of gas was the final incentive. Jeff Gumina, manager of the Village Bike and Fitness shop in Jenison, figures he's saved $600 so far this year riding to work from his home in Forest Hills.

Motorists should be aware more bicyclists are on the road and have the same rights as drivers, shop owners say, and bicyclists need to follow the laws. That means stopping at red lights and stop signs, signaling lane changes and turns and not riding against traffic.

Area emergency rooms have not noticed a significant increase in injuries from car-bike collisions, beyond the usual summer uptick, although their statistics tend to lag months behind.

Steve Pruett, a mechanic at the Village Bike & Fitness shop in Jenison, has seen a two-fold increase in the number of bikes brought in with damage caused by collisions with cars in recent months.

That might be partly because bikes are harder for drivers to see. Then there's the road-rage factor.

"I've been honked at and told two or three times this year, 'Get off the road and get on the sidewalk,'" said Phelps, who commutes most days from his home near Caledonia to his shop in Jenison, about 18 1/2 miles one way. "The biggest challenge is to do it where you feel safe."

Even bike-friendly Portland, Ore., one of two U.S. cities granted platinum status by the American League of Bicyclists, saw four confrontations between carbon-free commuters and drivers over a two-week period in July.

Most of the streets and roads in Grand Rapids and throughout Michigan are not built with bicyclists in mind. Ann Arbor was the only Michigan city to make Bicycling Magazine's annual list of bike-friendly cities.
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