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Our Opinion: Drivers: End vehicle-bicycle collisions

Motor vehicle operators need awareness, education to keep local bicyclists safe on roads

Kevin Robinson-Barajas

Kevin Robinson-Barajas

Bicyclists can wear helmets, follow the rules of the road and ride defensively.

But “that doesn’t protect you from a 3,000-pound vehicle,” notes Tom Thivener, bicycle and pedestrian program manager for the Tucson Transportation Department.

• Kevin Robinson-Barajas, 15, was bicycling Friday morning when a school bus ran over him, killing the Tucson High Magnet School sophomore.

• Jose Rincon Jr., 14, was killed Jan. 12 when an allegedly drunken driver hit him – and kept driving for more than a half-mile.

• Charles W. Nystrom, 54, was leaving Morris K. Udall Park on his bicycle Aug. 14 when a Ford F-150 truck struck and killed him.

• Kui Juan Yu Jiang, 75, was killed Aug. 25 when a van struck her and her bicycle.

• Patti Jane Lopez, 43, was cycling when an SUV hit her from behind on May 21, fatally injuring her.

• And Arturo Avila, also 43, was killed Feb. 29 when struck by a pickup truck.

In every one of these Tucson-area tragedies, the cyclist didn’t stand a chance.

It’s time for Tucson drivers to wake up and watch out, as high gas prices, environmental awareness and health concerns have spurred more and more bicycling here.

“There’s some bad driving going on out there,” Thivener says. “I don’t know what’s going on in drivers’ heads.”

Whether listening to iPods, changing the radio station, eating breakfast or reading road maps, local drivers are subjected to lots of self-induced and involuntary distractions.

Such distractions too often prove deadly to our cycling neighbors.

Professional drivers – of trucks, buses, shuttles, taxi cabs and delivery vans – should be required to undergo the city and county’s free bicycle safety program.

While the program is open to everyone, it would be particularly useful to drivers who log the most miles in our congested city. (Call 243-BIKE or go online to www.bikeped.pima.gov/ allsafetyclasses.html.)

Many bicyclists already have been educated about safe riding. Local schools give sessions provided by Tucson police bike “rodeos,” county transportation officials, city firefighters and the city’s Parks & Recreation Department.

Clearly, though, safety education of bicyclists alone isn’t enough.

Tucson is a premier cycling city, but it’s also a congested urban area with too few bike lanes and too many cars.

In order for users of both modes of transportation to remain safe in the Tucson area, they need to be extremely conscious of one another.

And both need to err on the side of excessive caution and consideration. It’s past time we curb this death toll.

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