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Share the Road
What does “Share the Road” mean to you? Opinions range from this being an empty and overused slogan to a simple message that’s at the very core of our mission – and that’s just among the 20 or so members of the League staff and board!
It’s a traffic sign, a slogan, a bumper sticker, and a pin. Some hear it as an order (!), some as a statement of fact, and others as a plea. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration is concluding a grant project this year with the Marin County Bicycle Coalition to discover how the concept is being used. Motorcyclists use it; truckers use it and bicyclists use it. Indeed, late last year the League announced a new Share the Road initiative in response to a series of tragedies involving experienced cyclists.
These tragedies highlight both the importance and the limitation of the phrase. Our lives depend on being able to share the road with motorists, but there are a lot of drivers out there with whom I don’t want to share the road. Drivers who are drunk, drugged, sleepy, inattentive, serial speeders, reckless, unlicensed, and/or uninsured simply shouldn’t be on the road in the first place.
There are errant cyclists out on the roads as well, I know that. That’s why expanding our BikeEd program is part of the 2006 Share the Road campaign. We must continue to do what we can to improve the riding skills and behavior of all cyclists. In 2006 we’ll add another 300 certified instructors and have new materials for them to use. We’ll be improving our ride leader training and working with “disease rides” to give riders better instructions for riding in groups.
But you and I both know that we can be following every rule in the book and still get run off the road or yelled and cursed at and be told to “get on the sidewalk where you belong!” Many of the 600 or so bicyclists killed on US roads last year were doing nothing wrong. Which is why we also need to be able to stick up for ourselves on the road and in the legal realm. Therefore, part of the 2006 Share the Road campaign is to bring together legal resources – lawyers, expert witnesses, legal analysts etc – to defend our rights and better protect them throughout our legal and judicial system.
Probably the worst part of my job is reading about many of those 600 deaths in the course of the year. I usually know one or two of the victims. A few are League members and even more belong to our clubs. Almost all the stories make me mad. I get angry after a close call myself both because I feel violated and because I know how a split second or an inch or two can make all the difference. A big part of the 2006 Share the Road campaign is about channeling that sadness, frustration and sometimes even anger into something constructive. Grieving relatives and friends have passed good state and local laws for bicyclists.
Another challenge with this whole issue is that while we want to stand up and fight back we also don’t want to scare people into not riding. Harping on about 600 deaths each year is hardly the best commercial for an activity that is inherently healthy and positive. We know fear already dissuades millions of people from riding and riding more… and yet we need to speak up about dangerous drivers and lenient sentencing in order to raise awareness, improve driving behavior, get dangerous drivers off the road, and remove some of causes of fear! That’s why events like the Ride of Silence are a powerful part of the 2006 Share the Road campaign. A Ride of Silence honors fallen cyclists by getting out and riding.
So “Share the Road” does mean a lot of different things. It’s part education, part advocacy, and part promotion. Find out more about the different elements of the campaign by reading the following pages, and also by visiting www.bikeleague.org where we’ll keep adding resources.