Letter to the Editor: St. George is dangerous for bicyclists; 3 rules to keep us safe

Composite Stock Image, St. George News

OPINION — In early September, I was hit by a car while riding my bicycle along Dixie Drive. The accident happened when a(n allegedly) distracted driver drifted across the shoulder and smacked into the back wheel of my bike.

The bike was badly damaged, and I had several injuries, but fortunately I avoided serious injury as I saw the car veer to the right in the rearview mirror I wear on my glasses. That look in my mirror caused me to quickly move to the right off the road to try to avoid getting hit, but the second or so I had to get fully away was not enough.

Back riding for a couple of weeks now – albeit with a bit more trepidation than before – I have been watching vehicles closer than ever, especially when they pass me. I am writing to talk about a troubling pattern that I continue to see after years of riding the roads here in St. George.

bike-accident
Auto bicycle accident, St. George, Utah, date not given | Photo courtesy of Tom Edgerton, St. George News

The driver who hit me was (allegedly) distracted. I will not address that except to say it is becoming a plague, which should concern all drivers and cyclists. The problem I write about is that a majority of motorists continue to drive closer to the shoulder, and therefore to cyclists, than they should.

Utah law states that vehicles cannot be within 3 feet of a bicycle. I believe that too many drivers interpret that law to mean that they need to stay only 3 feet away. As a person who has, to date, between 50,000 and 100,000 miles under his tires, let me state unequivocally – that is a minimum distance.

While I understand and support the reason for the 3-foot law, I can tell you that it is generally not enough for cyclists, especially at speeds above 30 mph.

Stand 3 feet from a vehicle going faster than that (30 mph) to understand why. Now think about riding a bicycle 3 feet from that same vehicle, while trying to ride straight within a narrow shoulder, and at the same time looking to avoid cracks in the road, sand, rocks, holes, glass and the myriad other hazards cyclists regularly encounter but cars only occasionally need to worry about.

I encourage all drivers to think about this, both for their safety, and that of the cyclists they pass.

Remember also that while you may be in control of your vehicle, you cannot control what a cyclist does. This is why the more space you can give a cyclist when you pass, the less chance there is of you hitting them if, for some reason, they lose control or need to temporarily move out of the shoulder and into the lane.

In my accident, I was in control and the driver was not. Obviously in these types of cases, the cyclist always loses.

It is therefore critical for drivers to always maintain control and give cyclists as much space as possible, as motor vehicles generally move much faster, have more space on the road, are far less vulnerable than bicycles, have fewer road hazards to negotiate and are bigger and more dangerous.

For many reasons related to how both drivers and cyclists negotiate the roads in St. George, I consider this to be perhaps the most dangerous place I have ever ridden my bicycle.

The good news is you can help change this. Following are probably the most important ways.

  1. If you are in the right lane of a four-lane highway and see a cyclist on the shoulder that you will pass, before you do, first check to see if you can move to the left lane, or at least safely move farther left in the lane you are in.
  2. Before you pass a cyclist on a two-lane road, first check to see if you can safely move farther left in your lane.
  3. If you are, for whatever reason, unable to give a cyclist extra room when passing and you are traveling above 30 mph on a road with little or no shoulder for the cyclist to ride on, slow down.

Please consider and follow this three-part request (plea is a better word) for how you can share the road more safely for both you and the cyclists you encounter. Everyone will benefit and our community will be safer. 

Submitted by Tom Edgerton of St. George.

Letters to the Editor are not the product or opinion of St. George News. The matters stated and opinions given are the responsibility of the person submitting them.

Email: news@stgnews.com

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Copyright St. George News, SaintGeorgeUtah.com LLC, 2016, all rights reserved.

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20 Comments

  • mmsandie October 14, 2016 at 8:24 am

    I ink bike riders are at fault most of the time… They cross at intersections fast and Don,t regard the light at all.. I seen them go,up bluff st between cars.. The worse thing, is gojng down Dixie dr. When you have more than one driver they drive next to each other to talk and take up half the cars lane. So I have to slow down and wait for cars on the left side to pass by me.. It’s worse when they go pass Ivins to rte 91. They put in a bike lane but it ends at the top of the hill from Santa clara… So don,t blame car drivers for every situation..

    • .... October 14, 2016 at 9:09 am

      mmsandie. .you pretty much described how people around here drive their cars. don’t blame bicyclist for every situation

      • Becky October 14, 2016 at 9:02 pm

        I live in Ivins, and travel very day on Snow Canyon Pkwy. There are bikers on that road every day. They ride right on the white line or even sometimes in the drivers lane, they get in the drivers lane going around the round a bouts, and sometimes even ride 2 abreast. I think there needs to be rules for the bike riders too. And they have sidewalks that never get used. As a driver there are many times I can’t move over and the biker isn’t paying attention, or some even wear earphones and listen to music. There needs to be commaon courtesy on both sides, but the ones I see not obeying the rules most of the time are the bike riders.

  • Roy J October 14, 2016 at 11:41 am

    Share the road. Drivers, stay alert. Bikers, spandex and a yellow jersey don’t make you Tour de France material, stop trying to beat your last time and pay attention to the rules of the road, your not that special, either.

    • .... October 14, 2016 at 4:27 pm

      share the road drivers,stay alert sitting behind a steering wheel doesn’t make you grand prix racing material. stop trying to beat your last time and pay attention to the rules of the road and obey all traffic laws and obey the speed limit

      • Real Life October 14, 2016 at 7:46 pm

        Taking pills all day, not having a job, and trolling the local internet news site, does not make you anything.

        • .... October 15, 2016 at 9:49 am

          Amen to that ! t aking pills all day and not having a job and trolling me all day does not make you anything LOL ! Ha ha ha ha ha. that’s a good one. it doesn’t seem that your anger issues are getting any better.

          Now maybe if you could do something about your personality disorder and get a job you could actually get a life ! God Bless You my fellow brethren !

  • Dolly October 14, 2016 at 2:25 pm

    Hi Tom, you make many valid points, but I want you to know that not all St George Drivers are out to get you. I always give waaaay more than 3 feet of space if road conditions permit. Frankly, you guys make me nervous – I never know when you are driving by vehicle rules or by pedestrian rules because, yes, I have seen it both ways. Now, I probably am a bit more understanding than most 4-wheeled vehicle drivers because I am also a motorcycle rider. I understand what it is like to be hyper-vigilant, to be wary of all those distracted drivers. I’ve given up counting the times I see people texting (or looking for Poke’mon) and driving. I try to make sure drivers see me, but often they don’t. I avoid riding by high-schools, but sometimes accidents are just that…an accident. I was involved in 3 accidents (in my car) within a 5-month period – none of which were my fault, and yes..I am even more unnerved than I was before. But, I still have to get out and live life, and I hope you can do the same. Good luck!

  • Kathryn October 14, 2016 at 2:26 pm

    Bikers should also follow rules. That means when you come to an intersection, stop like the rest of the motorist, don’t weave over into the crosswalk and cross the road without even pausing. Some of us are making a right turn and you come up behind the cars and cross the street right in front of us even as we are making the turn.

    • .... October 14, 2016 at 4:20 pm

      People Driving cars should also follow the rules. that means when you get to an intersection you stop and not run a stop sign or a red light. and use their turn signals when weaving back and forth while changing lanes.

      yeah some of us drivers are trying to make a right hand turn and don’t appreciate getting hit from behind because some moron behind us is on a cell phone and not paying attention.

      and people that are not handicapped need to stop parking in handicap only stalls because their to stupid to read or to lazy to walk and extra 8 feet.

      • Dolly October 14, 2016 at 6:24 pm

        I just thought all those folks who never signal a lane change just bought cheap cars and turn signals must have been an option. (Yes, I’m kidding.) I have never seen so many “California” rolling stops as I have here in Washington County either! (And no, I am not kidding.)

        • .... October 14, 2016 at 7:51 pm

          Doll y. well then move to California and problem solved !

      • Bob October 14, 2016 at 6:29 pm

        let all of that anger out, lol

        • .... October 14, 2016 at 7:48 pm

          let all of that anger out, lol

  • outsider_100@hotmail.com October 14, 2016 at 4:53 pm

    Tom – You are lucky to be able to tell your story. So many cyclists have ended up in far worse condition after tangling with cars….

    I have little faith in changing driver behavior, during my lifetime, no matter how much we publicize the consequences of distracted driving. The 3 foot buffer is interesting, but I would bet that if you asked most drivers, randomly, they would not know the rule exists….adding a few more traffic signs along roadways might help, but the typical driver is not paying attention….

    My experience during 2+ years in Washington County has caused me to modify many of my routes to minimize the exposure to automobiles. Washington County/St. George City have done a terrific job of laying out a comprehensive walking/bike path system from Sun River to Coral Canyon (almost). The Virgin River Trail is exceptional. Watching out for walkers, and being respectful of their “space” has minimized any negative impacts, although I willingly accept a slower pace as a result of sharing and rights of way. By coupling the great trail system with low volume traffic roads/highways any rider could create safe and challenging loops to get 30+ miles a ride. Days of the week also create opportunities, since Sunday typically features less traffic on Highway 91, for example. All-terrain tires help me deal with uneven shoulder surfaces and debris….

    Compared to 10 prior years in both Salt Lake County and Summit County, I believe the St. George area offers bicyclists a safer riding environment, on average. The success factor will always be: Ride Defensively…

  • .... October 14, 2016 at 7:52 pm

    LOL ! ha ha ( got one )

  • imsmilin October 14, 2016 at 9:43 pm

    First I’d like to say that I’m glad to hear you weren’t seriously hurt in your accident. With that said, I agree with many of these comments regarding cyclist behavior. Share the road doesn’t mean those operating vehicles have automatically been called out to protect your safety. You are just as responsible for yourself and my safety. I travel daily on the backroad behind Sand Hollow on the 2 lane road then towards the airport. I encounter cyclists riding 2-3-4 abreast forcing me to move into the on-coming lane to pass you safely or hit my brakes if there is an oncoming car and wait to pass. Why do you as cyclists have to do that? Why isn’t my safety important to you? I try to carefully navigate you, the road and on-coming traffic at 55 mph, just as one of you pull-out in front of me to ride next to or pass another rider. If you can’t maintain the posted speed limited please give me the benefit of doing so without risking your life as well as mine. I am happy to share the road, if only the cyclists I’m exposed to didn’t act like they are entitled to the whole damn road.

    • Scorch October 15, 2016 at 7:45 am

      imsmilin, Utah law gives a cyclist the right to the entire lane. They are to be treated as a slow moving vehicle. Riding two abreast in the lane is completely legal, but it tends to upset drivers more than anything. Though I am always surprised how angry someone will get because they have to ease their foot off the gas pedal for 3-4 seconds. That must be a real trial for some folk.
      I have ridden a lot of miles around this town and by far, the majority of drivers are very courteous. The problems arise when both the cyclist and the drivers are not aware of what the rules are.

  • dhamilton2002 October 14, 2016 at 10:08 pm

    A little over a year ago I spent 4 nights in the hospital with 5 broken ribs, a punctured lung and a very serious concussion thanks to a distracted driver on Snow Canyon Parkway. As far as I know the driver did not stop (I have no memory of the accident or the following week I spent in the hospital). The physical, emotional and financial tolls kept me off my bike for a while and though I do still ride I am not as comfortable as I once was. I do think the majority of drivers in our area are observant and aware but I ask those who think texting or talking on their cell phones this question; Is that call worth someone else’s life?? If we all could ride only the trails it would be great but roads are a part of our trail system and as much as we don’t want to be on the road it is a necessity at some points. Drivers be careful, pay attention and think twice before you get distracted enough to kill someone.

  • Michael October 16, 2016 at 3:59 pm

    3 years ago I had a cyclist run in to my car. At the time it was illegal for a cyclist to ride on a sidewalk. Luckily, this young man had no serious injuries. I saw him traveling towards at a high rate of speed coming down the hill towards the Bloomington round a bout. Having anticipated that he would not slow down coming into an intersection where most people in their vehicles are more concerned with other approaching vehicles or speeding up to merge with I-15, it was all I could do to come to a complete stop. He t-boned my car a t full speed. If I was moving at any speed, the collision would have been far worse with disastrous results for the cyclists.
    Since that time, St George has rescinded the prohibition for bike riding on sidewalks probably to make way for jazzy’s and other motorized transports for the handcaped. I continue to see cyclist plough into intersections from sidewalks to crosswalks without the same care as pedestrians (look both ways), most recently on Main and 100 S.
    I get annoyed at other drivers and I get annoyed at cyclist who forget that they too are considered a “vehicle” when they are on the “public” roadways. However, as irritating as it is on both sides, I don’t want to have live with the pain of knowing that I killed or crippled someone just because I had the right of way.
    So be careful out there…

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