Cyclists Raise Awareness for Safety on the Roads

May 15, 2013

Charlottesville prides itself in being a bike-friendly city, but local cyclists say there is more work to be done to ensure safety on the roads.

Cyclists set out Wednesday evening for the annual "Ride of Silence," a seven-mile trek throughout the city in memory of cyclists killed or injured on the road.

The ride is part of an international event that started ten years ago with the goal of raising awareness about the cycling community and asking motorists to share the road.

Albemarle County resident Scott Paisley joined the Charlottesville ride. For him, it was personal. Paisley was seriously injured after being hit by an SUV while riding his bike a few years ago.

"It's extremely frightening. I had a back injury," said Paisley. "I had a lot of time during the incident and after where I was worried, am I going to recover from this?"

But he has recovered and is hoping to educate drivers on how to share the road with the growing number of people commuting on two wheels instead of four.

"Just look at Main Street during the morning and afternoon rush hour. More people every year are taking advantage of that east/west corridor and riding their bike to work," said Paisley.

And Charlottesville has responded to the increased interest in cycling.

"The city has put up tremendous amounts of bicycle lanes to help separate the motorists from the cyclists to ensure their safety, as well as the motorists out there on the highway," said Sgt. L.A. Durrette of the Charlottesville Police Department.

This was Sgt. Durrette's fifth year escorting the local Ride of Silence. The ride hit home for him, too. Durrette responded to a fatal accident involving a cyclist in 2010, which he called "ugly."

Sgt. Durrette says keeping the roads safe is a two-way street.

"There are some things that could be improved by motorists and cyclists," said Sgt. Durrette. "If we all share the road, we'll get through this town a whole lot easier."

Paisley says it is important for cyclists to keep alert when they hit the streets.

"I don't listen to music when I ride. I don't have the phone out of my pocket and in my hand. I'm listening very carefully to what's going on around me," he said.

He also says it is essential for motorists to understand they must share the road.

"There are a lot of people that think we're in the way, but the next time you pass me and then come to a traffic light, remember that I'm not in your way," said Paisley. "I'm one less car that's between you and getting through that traffic light. I'm one less car taking up the parking space that you could have otherwise gotten."

The last fatal bicycle accident in Charlottesville was in 2010. The latest crash data provided by the Department of Motor Vehicles indicates that from 2004 to 2011, there were 168 bicycle crashes involving injuries in the city.

To learn more about the "Ride of Silence," click HERE.

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