By Tara McKee
Soon after Evelyn Tuddenham became UDOT’s Statewide Bicycle and Pedestrian Coordinator, she started hearing the complaints. Cyclists called her complaining about motorists that passed too closely or endangered cyclists in other ways. Motorists registered complaints about bicyclists strung across the road, making it difficult for cars to pass them. It became very clear to her that both cyclists and motorists had a point and that the problems couldn’t truly be addressed by focusing on only one side. Evelyn felt that the key would be for cars and bikes to each show respect to the other and follow the rules. “When cyclist and motorists both take responsibility to show respect, that makes the most difference,” she adds.
The Road Respect Tour was framed to bring those issues of mutual respect and following the rules to the forefront. A core group of 25 cyclists were chosen to ride the entire 450 miles over 6 days. The route was planned to make the cyclists visible to motorists and busy roads weren’t completely avoided. Many drivers saw the cyclists riding down the road, wearing the black and yellow jerseys with the words “Road Respect: Cars + Bikes” and “3 Feet is the Law” prominently written on the backs.
The route began in Logan on June 13th with a special kickoff by Mayor Godfrey, who was the first of many Utah mayors to sign the Road Respect Pledge board. Many cyclists from Logan joined the core riders that morning, some for only a few miles, and a few continued with the ride through Ogden and Farmington into Salt Lake City, stopping for the rallies along the way.
At Olympic Park visitor’s park, the riders were joined by several Summit County residents who rode with the group into Park City for a rally and lunch. One of those riders was Midway resident Gary Peirce, who had a strong reason to want to join the ride. Gary rode with the group down to Provo, biked home and rode back to join the group the next day. It was then that ride leader, Keri Gibson of the DPS Highway Safety Office, invited Gary to join the group for the rest of the week. At the rally in Moab, Gary stood up to share his story. Several years ago, Gary’s beloved wife, Judy was riding her bike near Bear Lake when a driver, distracted by a cell phone, drifted across the lane and hit her, ending her life. Road Respect isn’t a trivial issue to Gary. “It’s personal, real personal,” he explains.
Many of Utah’s towns were very excited to welcome the Road Respect Riders. In the town of Loa, so many children came to the rally that the 30 helmets were quickly given away. One of the shuttle drivers and a few of the cyclists were able to help the town’s children by making small repairs on their bikes: lubing rusty chains, fixing flats on even the smallest tires and adjusting seats for better fit. It wasn’t just the children who greeted the riders. Mayors, city council members, bike advocates, and cycling enthusiasts joined the Road Respect group in various parks along the way. Family friendly activities were a big part of each rally, as were speeches. The enthusiasm in each town for making the roads safer for cycling was evident. Manti’s Mayor Natasha Madsen joined the riders on her mountain bike several miles outside her town and then she and her husband rode with the group into town. Mayor Madsen enjoys riding her bike and deeply feels the concern about safety on the roads: “How many automobile drivers know the rules? That is the question.”
The Road Respect Tour concluded with a long ride from Panguitch through Zion’s Park and Springdale finally finishing in Hurricane. As an effort to bring awareness to the importance of cyclists and drivers sharing the road and following the rules, it was a great first step for Utah. The tour was a chance to spread the word across the state that it is time for mutual respect between cars and bikes. As Salt Lake City’s Mayor Ralph Becker stated, “Everyone on the road needs to have a safe environment.”