The deaths of two experienced cyclists on a fundraising ride in Lancaster County could prompt state lawmakers to enact laws to make roads safer for cyclists. While such laws would be welcome, we agree with cycling enthusiasts who say that a change in attitude on the part of cyclists and drivers also is necessary.
The accident that killed Thomas Hoskins of Columbia and Lee Anne Barry of Waxhaw, N.C., last month is still under investigation, and the driver of the car has not been charged. Some lawmakers fear that state laws are inadequate to address the problem of negligent drivers.
During the last legislative session, the Palmetto Cycling Coalition pushed for a number of changes in traffic regulations. The most notable change would require drivers to five a 5-foot side buffer when passing cyclists. But the House version of that bill never came up for a floor vote, and the Senate version was stuck in committee.
Even without new legislation, if drivers and cyclists alike would abide by existing laws -- and use common sense -- the number of dangerous encounters between cars and cyclists could be reduced.
Many drivers may not realize that bicycles are considered vehicles and should be given the appropriate right of way. At the same time, many cyclists seem oblivious to traffic that often backs up behind them.
Both problems could be alleviated if roads were wide enough to accommodate cars and bicycles, especially if bike trails were incorporated in road plans. Still, that would not affect existing roads that were built strictly to handle motorized vehicles.
Meanwhile, motorists could make roads safer by following a few safety tips, such as slowing down when encountering cyclists, allowing at least 4 feet when passing and, essentially, trying to be tolerant of slow-moving cyclists.
Cyclists are required to ride in the same direction as traffic in the farthest right lane. They also are advised to wear bright clothing with reflective tape and use a white front light and red rear light on their bicycles.
Cyclists also could avoid some of the common dangers by sticking to lightly traveled roads and avoiding major thoroughfares where they are more likely to interfere with traffic.
In short, the problem will not be completely solved by new laws. Drivers and cyclists simply must figure out how to share the roads.
Drivers and cyclists have to figure out reasonable ways to share the state's roads.