Cycling event cites safety as a top concern

Thursday, May 25, 2006

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Bill Smith leaned against his bicycle before the first Frederick Ride of Silence last week and remembered an old acquaintance, J.D. Baggett, who was killed in a bicycle crash eight years ago.

Smith of Frederick still has a piece of paper with Baggett’s phone number in his wallet.

Smith and other cyclists from Frederick county rode in silence for 10 miles on May 17 through the city as part of a nationwide Ride of Silence.

Frederick Pedalers Bicycling Club, an organization that promotes social bicycling in Frederick county, organized the Frederick ride. Members said they wanted to show that cyclists can safely share the road with cars and other vehicles and to honor riders who have been killed on roadways.

Brian King of Frederick Pedalers said he wanted to show the community that cyclists can be polite when it comes to sharing.

‘‘It could be any one of us out there in an accident,” said Alice King, Brian’s wife. ‘‘We’re just trying to portray a good image.”

Ride of Silence started three years ago in Dallas, Texas, after endurance cyclist Larry Schwartz was hit by the side mirror of a passing bus and was killed.

It is now a worldwide event with rides in Australia, Canada, China and Scotland. This year, an estimated 220 American cities participated in the ride.

Safety was first and foremost on the minds of the Frederick cyclists before they started to ride through the city streets. Dave Miller of Middletown said most drivers are respectful of him when he rides, but some pass too close. A lack of shoulder space on some roadways is a problem and he often pulls over to let cars go by, he noted.

Smith said his friend’s size and strength didn’t matter when a drunk driver hit him on a state road in 1998. Smith said he and Baggett used to watch their children compete in gymnastics and described him as a big, strong man.

‘‘[Cyclists are] equal under the law but not under the laws of physics,” he said. ‘‘We’ve all had our close calls.”

According to the Frederick Police Department 2005 Accident Analysis, Frederick city saw 13 bicycle accidents last year.

In 10 of the 13 accidents, the bicyclists were at fault for not following traffic signs and signals, said Lt. Kevin Grubb.

Drivers were responsible in three of the accidents for violating traffic signals, he said.

Grubb advised bicyclists to follow the same traffic signals and signs as motor vehicles and to yield to pedestrians. He said cyclists should ride single-file and in the same direction as traffic.

‘‘As long as they obey the same rules on the roads, everyone can coexist with one another,” Grubb said.