By Tara McKee
Road Respect: Helping Cars & Bikes Get Along on Utah’s Roads
As cyclists, most of us who share the roads with cars love to commiserate with stories about the cars, trucks and buses which cut us off, take sudden right turns in front of us, drift into our lanes or honk loudly at us as they drive closely by. But we also grumble about our fellow bikers who defiantly ride through stop signs and red lights, become a menace to pedestrians on sidewalks and break other rules of the road, making it easier for motorists to paint the rest of the two-wheeled crowd as a bunch of scofflaws. Though the offenders in either group are a small minority, it can be easy to judge the other faction by their jerks. The tension between cars and bikes can be only too evident in the streets and safety is always a concern. In a run-in between a car and a bike, cyclists are well aware of their disadvantage. A spindly cyclist versus a fast-moving, powerful 2-ton vehicle with large blind spots always ends badly for the cyclist no matter who is at fault. The Road Respect campaign, now in its 2nd year, aims to help break that tension and bring about a more understanding and safer atmosphere between motorists and cyclists.
This year’s Road Respect campaign kicked off with a June 3rd press conference at the Bicycle Transit Center in Salt Lake City. About thirty core riders began a week-long tour of the state in which they rode over 500 miles of Utah’s roads, dressed in the yellow and black Road Respect kits and visibly evident to cars and trucks in both rural and urban areas of the state. As Utah Highway Patrol Col. Daniel Fuhr noted, “They’re going to be a moving billboard to educate folks on road safety and bike safety.”
The riders began the first full day of the state tour in Beaver, Utah. The group met with the town’s mayor and some of the city council who indicated their firm support for cycling safety and respect between the motorists and bicyclists. Representatives from Beaver became the first to sign the Road Respect pledge. Mayor Mark Yardley issued the Road Respect proclamation supporting the campaign and its message of bicycle safety with a call for Beaver’s residents to be more aware of cyclists on streets and highways. During the remainder of the week, the Road Respect pledge board would be carried to 19 other Utah communities to be signed by their town government representatives and residents and many of Utah’s mayors added a strong show of support by also reading the proclamation.
Burke Swindlehurst, retired pro racer and native son of Beaver, and founder of the Crusher in the Tushar mountain bike race rode out with the Road Respect riders for the first miles of the day’s ride, before he turned and headed back to help with the kids’ bike rodeo in Beaver. The Road Respect riders continued their ride straight into the wind for Cedar City and St. George. In Cedar City, the riders paused for a special Native American ceremony with a prayer for a safe journey as led by medicine man Wilford Jake, a member of the Paiute/Shoshone tribe.
When the riders came into St. George, they were joined by a large group of local riders, city officials and St. George mayor, Daniel McArthur and his wife Bunny. The mayor and his wife led the group on their vintage Schwinn tandem through town and onto the Riverside Trail to ride to the Crosby Family Confluence Park for a rally with games and activities for families which reinforced the message of bicycle safety. The rally was well-supported by local cycling clubs, bike shops and local businesses which also set up booths. A great addition to the Road Respect community rallies for 2012 ensured that the message wasn’t just being preached to the choir. Vintage car shows were held along the route in towns such as Richfield, Draper and Bountiful. The car shows brought in car enthusiasts who were also able to hear the Road Respect message about how to safely share the road with cyclists.
The Road Respect (RR) Tour continued through the week as the riders rode from Panguitch to Richfield and then joined with Moab’s local residents for a great out-and back ride to Dead Horse Pt followed by a three-mile family ride through Moab’s residential streets and along the town’s bike paths. The RR tour continued on, visiting Vernal and Roosevelt on Thursday for their first tour of eastern Utah. Friday’s ride began in Park City with a big rally and wound through Midway, Orem, Alpine and into Draper for well-attended Road Respect bash. Mayor Becker kicked off the final day’s ride, by leading out for the first few miles as local riders joined the RR group in cycling through the streets of Salt Lake City. Saturday’s ride continued with stops in other Wasatch Front communities before the big finish and concluding Road Respect event in Logan.
Not only did the tour bring the message of cycling safety to the communities, but the communities had opportunities to show off their new bike lanes, new bike/ped paths and their “Share the Road” signs, which remind motorists that bicycles belong on the road also and to expect them there. Across the state, in rural areas as well as suburban and urban regions, communities are seeing the benefits of sharing the road with bicyclists. Motorists are realizing that cyclists aren’t trying to force them off the road and are starting to believe that cyclists do in fact have an equal right to the road. Utah’s new bike friendly areas are finding other great benefits: safer, more inviting streets, increased property values, and a better environment and quality of life. Road Respect’s education program hopes to continue to pass on the message that mutual respect between all road users, regardless of the number of wheels they ride upon, will make the roads safer for all of us.