An annual bike event in Shoreham two Sundays ago was marred by an alleged drunk driver who plowed into a group of cyclists, critically injuring two of them.
The incident on route 74 during the Tour De Farms bike ride, which featured more than 600 riders, angered and saddened but also galvanized Vermont’s cycling community, and we’re getting a gauge today on how cycling enthusiasts are feeling about the overall level of bike safety in Vermont.
According to a survey conducted by the League of American Bicyclists, Vermont currently ranks 23rd in the nation on the issue of bike-friendliness.
Nancy Schulz, a co-organizer of the Tour De Farms event and executive director of the Vermont Bike and Pedestrian Coalition, says among the top concerns for cyclists around the state are adequate shoulders on the sides of paved roads in Vermont.
“Crumbling shoulders, that have not been maintained. Shoulders that are regularly covered with sand, gravel, glass, various kinds of debris. Or shoulders that are just too narrow- a few inches wide at best to the right of the fog line,” says Schulz.
Narrowing vehicle travel lanes, says Schulz, is a potential solution. Schulz says the practice has the added effect of speed reduction, as well as giving additional space to the road’s shoulder.
Schulz also says education for motorists is key to maintaining bike safety. She says one factor that can make the relationship between cyclists and drivers is a lack of understanding of traffic laws.
“All of us could behave better than we do. We all need to know what the law is and what’s appropriate. A little bit of patience can go a long way,” says Schulz.
Over 600 people rode in the Tour de Farms. Despite the crash, Schulz says plans with next year’s event will go forward.
“We as a society would be wise to do what we can to promote cycling. It’s better for the planet, it’s better for personal health. There’s a laundry list of reasons why we should have more people on bicycles,” says Schulz.