Friday, July 11, 2008

Summer time—and the biking is dangerous

Local push for public safety education of drivers and cyclists

Express Staff Writer

Just one look at the traffic on Main Street and you know that summer is here. But cars aren't the only thing congesting the streets—with gas prices on the rise, there are also more and more bikes on the road. The result: prime conditions for vehicle-cycle collisions.

"This is the peak of the peak," said Bob Rosso, owner of the Elephant's Perch and longtime bike safety advocate. "We have an increase in car traffic and an increase in bike traffic and people tend to forget to pay attention."

While there have been no reported deaths of bikers going over Galena pass, there have been fatalities on the bike path. There have also been more than enough close calls on the road.

Just this week, Rosso cited two incidents where a driver almost collided with a cyclist on Highway 75, riding south from Galena Summit.

Rosso, along with members of the Ketchum Police Department and the Blaine County Recreation District, is on a mission to make the streets safer for both cyclists and drivers.

"There are good cyclists and there are bad cyclists," Rosso said. "Just as there are good motorists and bad motorists. We're not trying to put the blame in one place."

According to Rosso just a few simple changes could improve public safety: one, adding more signage that directs bikers on and off the city streets and two, simply being polite.

For example, since the Wood River Trail System is a multi-use trail, bikers should not simply race up and down the Valley.

"Bikers need to just chill out," Rosso said. "When they come upon someone, they should just give a quick heads up. Really, any basic greeting will improve relations and safety tremendously."

Rosso thinks that drivers could also improve their attitudes.

"In Europe, cyclist are almost revered," Rosso said. "You can bike along some of the narrowest roads and car after car will just wait patiently until they can safely pass. Here almost no one wants to slow down."

While there are talks of improving local signage, there are also bigger, long-term plans for the Wood River Valley as a whole.

One major improvement would be the addition of a shoulder to Highway 75. Rosso noted that it would improve safety for a driver who experiences a flat tire as well as a biker or group of bikers heading to the summit.

For now, Rosso just hopes that drivers and cyclists and even pedestrians will try to be a little more aware.

"Basically we just need a major mid-summer wake up call about the potential danger," Rosso said. "If everyone wakes up and just pays attention we should be just fine."

For more information on bike safety stop by one of the many bike shops in the Wood River Valley or the Blaine County Recreation District or the police department.

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