SALT LAKE CITY — Gary Peirce looks like a man who has spent countless hours keeping himself in shape.
The 65-year old Midway resident has been an avid cyclist for years and knows firsthand the risks and rewards that come with navigating the streets with all the other vehicles that share the road.
Among those risks are injury and even death.
About 11 years ago, Gary’s wife, Judy Peirce, was cycling with their daughter on the roads around Bear Lake when a vehicle driven by a distracted driver approached them.
“They were enjoying a morning ride when a (young woman) coming the opposite way in a car dropped her cellphone on the floor and reached over to pick it up,” he explained. His wife was struck and killed in the tragic incident, and since then, Peirce has been keenly aware of how important “road respect” and safety is to both vehicles and bicyclists.
“We’re trying to get people to understand to look out for people on bicycles, motorcycles, and anyone else on the road,” he said. “Be responsible!”
In an average year in Utah, six cyclists are killed and nearly 850 others are involved in crashes with motor vehicles. On Thursday, the Utah Department of Transportation, the Utah Department of Public Safety, the Utah Highway Patrol and Bike Utah launched the annual “Road Respect” safety campaign. The program was developed to educate drivers and cyclists about the rules of the road and encourage mutual respect on Utah roadways.
“It’s almost like what our mothers taught us: 'Lets just all get along,'” said UDOT Executive Director Carlos Braceras. “Cyclists have the same rights to the road as motorists do, but that means cyclists also have to follow the same rules.”
If both drivers and bicyclists collaborate, the roads would be safer for everyone, he added.
“Our goal is to increase the understanding between both groups,” Braceras said. “Clearly our focus is zero fatalities. We can get there. Increasing the awareness of cycling and the rules of the road is only going to help us get there.”
The Utah Legislature recently passed a law to protect vulnerable users of highways — bicyclists. The measure prohibits an operator of a motor vehicle from operating it within 3 feet of a vulnerable user of a highway. It also provides that an operator of a motor vehicle may not knowingly, intentionally or recklessly force or attempt to force a vulnerable user of a highway off the roadway for the purpose of causing violence or injury.
Spreading the message that bikes and cars can coexist is key, said Bike Utah Executive Director Scott Lyttle.
“Motorists and cyclists seem to get along as long as they are following the rules,” he said.
Rules of the road
Give at least 3 feet of space when passing a bicyclist.
Watch for bicycles in traffic; they are smaller and harder to see.
Be patient, slow down and pay attention around cyclists.
Obey all traffic signs, signals and land markings.
Ride single file when cycling in traffic.
Always wear a helmet.