‘Share the road’ applies to everyone

Andrew Sheeler / Editor-in-Chief
April 26, 2011

First a disclaimer: I am writing this from the perspective of a driver. I don’t even own a bike. I would, however, like to change that soon.

On the evening of Thursday, April 14, a male UAF student riding a bicycle was struck by a car and dragged on the ground near the Georgeson Botanical Garden. It is a moment that every motorist fears: hitting another living, breathing being with your car. Instead of stopping and rendering aid to the stricken bicyclist, the driver sped off in to the night.

The biker was alive but hurt.

“He was chewed up pretty bad,” said Sean McGee, UAF Chief of Police. He was taken to Fairbanks Memorial Hospital and treated overnight before being released. He was lucky.

Wil Curry, a 36-year-old Anchorage man, wasn’t. According to the Anchorage Daily News, Curry was a “self-proclaimed technology nerd” who loved sushi, Shakespeare and digitally mapping his bike rides each day. On April 5, just past midnight, Curry was hit and killed by car. A “ghost bike” memorial that popped up at the spot of Curry’s death caused a bit of controversy when it was taken down. Ironically, authorities believed it constituted a safety hazard for drivers. Still, the monument had the desired effect. People were talking, once again, about the relationship between bikes and cars on the road.

With summer almost here, bicyclists are once more taking to the streets. With that in mind, I offer these words: sharing the road means SHARING the road. That applies to bicyclists as well as motorists. Every car-bicycle collision is a tragedy, but the real tragedy is that most of them can be prevented. This is usually the part where somebody gives the “wear a helmet” speech but I’m not talking about that. I’m talking about bicyclists who ride on the road as if there weren’t large, metal two-ton cylinders of death right next to them. It is incumbent on drivers to watch out for bicyclists, but it is equally important that bikers be more aware of their environment. Curry’s death in Anchorage was ruled to be his fault, according to an Associated Press article. Curry rode his bike in to an intersection against the red light and he paid for that mistake with his life. A tragedy made worse by the fact that it was eminently preventable.

As for drivers, it is equally important they remain vigilant when on the roads. Again, a car is a two-ton engine of destruction and if it meets a human body there is no question as to who will come out of that deal the worse for wear. As the snow and ice melts away, the temptation is naturally there to want go faster. Just as we expect bicyclists to mind their surroundings, there is an even greater responsibility on drivers to be safe. After all, drivers have a bit of an advantage in the event of a collision.

It is great that we have programs like Green Bikes to help students at UAF exercise and get around. The truth is, there is so much more that could be done to make Fairbanks more bike-friendly. For example, the city could put in more bike lanes. We could add more sidewalks to make the place more walkable. I’m looking at you, Yukon Drive.

In the meantime, drivers, bikers and walkers are all just going to have to learn to share the road.

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