Safety Concerns as Bike & Pedestrian Season Begins - KTVN Channel 2 - Reno Tahoe Sparks News, Weather, Video

Safety Concerns as Bike & Pedestrian Season Begins

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With high gas prices and warmer weather on the way, bicycle transportation will soon be booming again. Spring begins next week. Kelly Clark, of the bicycle advocacy group "Muscle Powered" in Carson City can't wait. As she described it to us, on a bike "you feel the sun, and it's like nothing in the world. You're alive."

But she also knows it's a dangerous time. Through her group, she says "We're seeing a great increase in the number of cyclists in the area, including young people riding their bikes to school."

It's a big enough issue to have its own convention. Cyclists, engineers and public officials were all turning the caution light on early at NDOT's Bike and Pedestrian Conference at the Atlantis, especially after such a brutal 2013. There was a slight increase in auto-bicycle accidents last year, and a big increase in pedestrian mishaps…too many fatals. NDOT's Bill Story told us, "For pedestrians it was very high. We are definitely one of the higher states for pedestrians, and that's where we have a real problem on safety."

To reduce fatalities, NDOT is doubling up on education. They showed us all the safety messages that are included in a mass of pamphlets, buttons, maps, stickers, rulers...even lip balm. There's more work behind the scenes. Story told us, "A lot of educational programs, a lot of safety improvements, we have lots of corridor studies and safety studies going on."

The learning curve should eventually pay off. Most of the bike lanes in Reno are less than 5 years old…drivers are getting used to giving up some of their turf to 2-wheelers. A big change happened in 2011: a state law took effect requiring drivers to give 3 foot clearance when possible. Easier said than done. NDOT's Tim Rowe concedes you wouldn't know there was such a law after a ride on a bike. He said, "Cars don't give you 3 feet normally. They don't. You just have to watch. I'm watching. I have a mirror on my helmet that really helps."

That's another message you'll see more of on stickers this spring: "Give 3 feet when passing." NDOT, which put on the conference, told me law enforcement authorities are also planning a sting operation to enforce that 3-feet law, once the bands of bikes take their side of the road again.

But for Kelly Clark, any danger on Nevada roads is far outweighed on a bike. As she put it, "I would say it's not as dangerous as it is fun."

-written by John Potter

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