Thank you for taking the time on the phone to address my concerns regarding the biking hazards in our community after the recent bicyclist fatality outside of Arroyo Seco. I expressed my concern that the article written about this incident ("'Ghost bike' reminds drivers to heed cyclists," July 13) simply addressed biker safety but not driver safety in consideration of bikers on the road.
We all know as bikers and drivers that we are taking a risk every time we get on our bikes or into our cars and get on a neighborhood, county or state road. New Mexico law states that "Every person riding a bicycle upon a roadway shall be granted all of the rights and shall be subject to all of the duties applicable to the driver of a vehicle." If we look at bikers having the same rights and responsibilities as the drivers of a vehicle, we must consider that a bicyclist can legally ride down the road and must be given the same legal rights as other motor vehicles.
This means that if a rider is riding inside the white line as they are legally required to do so, they must be passed only when oncoming traffic is clear and given appropriate space. This means that if a rider is making a right- or left-hand turn, any vehicle behind the rider must wait for the rider to complete the turn before passing on the right or left.
We see "Share the road" signs on our local and state roads. This is the law and means we treat bicyclists as drivers. Unfortunately, many roads in our community have no shoulders and the ones that do are often scattered in trash, glass and gravel, which makes it dangerous to ride on the side of the roads. So as per New Mexico law, we say a prayer, and ride our bikes just inside the white line.
In New Mexico driver's education courses, students are taught that as a driver you must give a bicyclist 5 feet of distance when passing. They also instruct that a bike is considered a slow-moving vehicle - like a tractor - and you can only pass when the oncoming traffic is clear and give a minimum of 5 feet of space.
My rule of thumb is to envision the person on the bike as someone I love and cherish - my child, grandmother, a parent, a friend, and think of how much space would keep them absolutely safe on the road. This means slowing down to ensure safety and passing on the left only if there is no oncoming traffic in the opposite lane.
Another great way to decide what is a safe distance is to get on a bike ride in the neighborhood, and get a feel for the cars that pass safely and the ones that are too close - it's terrifying! Please consider slowing down, giving space and respecting the person on the bike as if they were dear to your heart and essential to your life.
In many cases bikes are essential forms of transportation for workers providing for their families. As a community, let's work together to keep one another safe. And because I'm no expert, would you please consider having one of your writers develop an article about biker/driver safety.
When the police investigation is complete regarding the June accident on State Road 230 [which killed cyclist Mark McLoughlin], will you share the specifics of what happened that took the life of an innocent young rider? It's chilling and can illustrate how easily these accidents occur when just an extra few seconds of patience and driver safety would have saved a life.
Jessica Harrower lives in Arroyo Seco.