that appeared in the September
By TIM MATTHES
Vehicle/bicycle accidents have resulted
in the deaths of two Silver City cyclists in just a little more than
a year. These events have caused understandable concern within the
Silver City cycling community, and have led to lengthy discussions
about the possible causes and overall relationship between cyclists
and vehicle drivers.
In the first accident, the cyclist was riding on the portion of New
Mexico 90 that is divided, with two lanes in each direction. According
to the motorist, the cyclist was riding on the shoulder of the road
and moved on to the road in front of the car. In the second case,
the cyclist was riding on the shoulder of the road on U.S. 180 East
and was run over by a vehicle turning into a business parking lot.
Based on these accidents, and cyclists'
observations while riding, it seems that driver inattention is a major
problem. Activities like talking on cell phones, adjusting stereos,
and attending to children in restraint seats can take a motorist's
attention off the task of driving.
The second driver told police he "didn't
see" the cyclist. The first hit a cyclist who moved over slightly,
even though almost two full lanes of road were available for maneuvering
and/or passing him.
Lack of knowledge of the regulations that govern cycling also enters
into the problems cyclists and motorists have in getting along. Some
people, motorists and cyclists, think that bicycles are to be ridden
against traffic. The fact is that traffic regulations specify that
bicycles are to be operated just like a car. Cyclists who ride against
traffic are asking for trouble, and are the cause of 25 percent of
Based on the many occasions cyclists
are chastised verbally for "being on the road," it's obvious that
a small segment of the drivers in the Silver City area aren't aware
that the law not only allows bicycles to be ridden on the road, but
requires that bicycles be ridden there. It is illegal per state and
city regulations to ride a bicycle on the shoulder of the road. The
cyclist who died in the second accident, had he lived, would have
been cited for riding off the road, as indicated on the accident report.
It should be noted here that in spite of the law, most cyclists use
the road shoulder when one is available, rather than risk antagonizing
Cyclists generally take less of their
right to the road than the law allows them. Traffic regulations allow
them to ride two abreast, use left-turn lanes, and move left in the
lane to avoid obstacles or when the lane isn't wide enough that a
bicycle and auto can safely co-exist.
"Road rage" and impatient and aggressive
drivers also complicate the life of the cyclist. Although Silver City
is generally a bicycle-friendly community, a small element of motorists
make life interesting for cyclists by using their ve-hicle as a virtual
Complicating this situation is the apparent
fact that a small, but dangerous, minority of motorists categorize
all bicyclists as "environmentalists" and/or "hippies," and therefore
feel justified in cursing at them, throwing objects at them or otherwise
threatening them. The fact is that the Silver City cycling community
is anything but a bunch of hippies. It includes a truck driver, automobile
salesman, bank CEO, retired veteran, retired Army officer, upper-level
Phelps Dodge manager, physician's assistant and a re-tired electrical
Bicyclists are far from totally innocent
in this scenario. Running stoplights and/or signs, riding the wrong
way on one-way streets, riding against traffic, advancing between
lanes of stopped cars and stoplights, cutting corners and other inconsiderate
behavior are not only illegal, but cause motorists to become aggravated
at cyclists in general.
So, what's to be done to make Silver
City roads safer for cyclists? Cyclists need to do their part by abiding
by traffic regulations, making themselves visible by wearing brightly
colored clothing, and riding predictably. Motorists can help by staying
focused on driving and exercising a bit more patience.
Most important, cyclists and motorists
need to respect each other's rights to be on the road. Applying the
Golden Rule would go a long way to making life safer and more congenial
EDITOR'S NOTE: Tim Matthes is a member of the Silver Spokes Bicycle
Club and a triathlete who puts in about 100 miles per week on his
may try to increase "biker friendliness"
By MELANIE FULLER
Daily Press Staff
Silver City's one bicycle lane, located on Little Walnut
Rd., doesn't seem to do cyclists that much good, Mike Sauber, local
bike advocate and co-owner of Gila Hike and Bike, told Mayor Terry
Fortenberry on Wednesday afternoon.
"The lane collects debris, making it an unwelcome path for cyclists,"
Sauber said. "The lanes need to be maintained by the street sweepers."
Sauber, bike advocate Tim Matthes and Tom Trowbridge, president of
New Mexico Alternative Transit, met with Fortenberry to discuss ways
to make Silver City a more bicycle-friendly place.
The top reasons to ride a bike, as listed by NMAT, include increased
mobility, exercise and fresh air.
According to Trowbridge, in order to be recognized by the League of
American Bicyclists, Silver City must meet several criteria, including
the establishment of a written policy to develop and maintain bicycle-safe
streets and pathways; a budget of at least $1 per capita per year
on bicycle facilities and activities; a proclamation recognizing May
as National Bicycle Month and encouraging citizens to observe Bike-to-Work
Day; and recognition of a citizens' Bicycle Advisory Committee and
designation of a bicycle-issues contact person on government staff.
"There are no cities in New Mexico that have qualified as bicycle-friendly
communities," Trowbridge told the Mayor. "I urge you to make Silver
City the first."
Compared to other streets in New Mexico cities, Trowbridge said, Silver
City's streets are in relatively good condition.
"I think your town is ideal for cycling," he said.
According to Matthes, Silver City's Comprehensive Plan, developed
in 1996, includes a map, courtesy of Engineers Inc., detailing recommended
bicycle lanes and signed bike routes in and around city limits.
Hudson Street will have bike lanes designated when it is repaved,
which is expected to occur within the next couple of years.
Funding seems to be the only concern, Fortenberry said.
According to Trowbridge, there's plenty of federal funding available
— it's just a matter of applying for it. "Congressman Joe Skeen
should be able to help with that," he said.
Also on the agenda for making Silver City a bicycle-friendly town
is the installation of bike parking at area businesses.
Local bicycle club, Silver Spokes, has offered to share the costs
of bike racks, Matthes said.
NMAT is a nonprofit 501(c)3 membership organization based in Santa
Fe, where standards have recently been adopted by the City Council
to designate bike lanes on main thoroughfares and adjacent roads.
According to Trowbridge, the average New Mexican travels 18,000 miles
per year and spends more than 50 cents per mile in vehicle operating
"Bike utilization can cut into that cost," he said. "Where are all
the cars going to go when the people really start to move into Silver
City?" he asked.
For further information, call Sauber at 388-3222, or Trowbridge at