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Bicycle safety a two-way street for riders, motorists

SANTA FE, N.M. — Santa Fe traffic claimed another bicyclist Monday. It wasn’t a fatality – the cyclist, who police say was probably at fault, remains hospitalized. And it wouldn’t be true to say that Santa Fe records a bicycle fatality every year.

But any vehicle-on-bike death is too many in a city the size of Santa Fe, considering that the total number of traffic fatalities involving bicycles remains well under 1,000 annually for the nation as a whole.

The number of bicyclists injured in the U.S. is a somewhat different story – 51,000 is one recent year’s tally.

But American bicyclists are three times as likely to be killed as their counterparts in Germany, another car-happy country, and six times more likely to die than their counterparts in the Netherlands, where bicycling is a national activity.

It’s tempting to blame this situation on motorists. In the unequal contest between car and two-wheeler, it’s not the motorist who will most likely wind up badly hurt or dead. So it’s incumbent on motorists to be extra vigilant in looking out for the pedal-pushers who share their road space.

That said, it’s incumbent on bicyclists to observe ordinary traffic rules, all the time. Who hasn’t seen bicyclists blowing through stop signs and red lights, swerving in and out of bike lanes or riding the wrong way down a one-way street?

And yes, more recently, texting while riding – one hand on the handlebars, one hand on the “smart” (make that extra-dumb) phone, and no eyes on surrounding traffic.

Another recently witnessed rider was in the middle of Cerrillos Road traffic, one arm cradled around a grocery bag full of something, with just one hand on the bike and not wearing a helmet. Incidentally, 25 percent of bicycle fatalities involve drunk riders.

The only good news here is that, as more bicyclists take to the road, there are fewer accidents. We’re not fans of the “critical mass” movement, but there is a truth in it – there is safety in numbers. The result is that everyone seems to be more aware and mindful.

So, ride those bikes. Better yet, obey those traffic rules and courtesies. That goes for motorists and bicyclists alike.

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