Ashley Lowery, Deseret News
Jackie Concannon, left, and Eric Bunce bike their way up Emigration Canyon in Salt Lake City on July 5.

If you've been on a bike on the roads of Utah — or any other state for that matter, Utah isn't unique in this area — you've probably had a brush with death provided by an inattentive motorist.

Likewise, if you've been in a car on the roads of Utah, you've probably had a brush with death thanks to an inattentive cyclist.

And in both cases there might have been a little anger, some four-letter words thrown about and — hopefully — no blood lost.

What happened on Aug. 2, though, crossed the line of accidental brushes with death brought on by inattention. According to witness statements and police reports, what happened on the Mirror Lake Scenic Byway that morning bordered on attempted murder and was no accident.

That morning, the highway was a bicyclist's paradise — and, apparently, created too much of a delay to get to that favorite fishing hole, hiking trail or secret spot for quiet reflection for at least one motorist.

After allegedly swerving at several groups of cyclists making their way up the highway toward the Bald Mountain Pass, Alexander Jason Barto, according to witness statements, finally succeeded in running a cyclist off the road. And in the process earned himself a trip to jail and a few trips to see a judge before the matter will be settled.

Why? Because, as Shane Dunleavy — the cyclist Barto is accused of running over — said, "he screamed at us that we didn't belong on the road." Dunleavy responded in a way that was both self-preservating to try to avoid being run over and infuriating to the motorist as he pushed away from the truck and bent the mirror down.

Barto allegedly swerved into the bicycles again, this time running them over and busting a custom carbon fiber bicycle into several pieces. Dunleavy escaped with some bruises, scrapes and a big scare.

What followed were a few reports in newspapers and on TV and a flurry of Internet chatter — some labeling Barto the villain in the situation, some pointing a finger at inconsiderate cyclists who impede the flow of traffic and pay no attention to the rules of the road they are supposed to follow.

Both likely have a valid point.

I have no idea if Dunleavy was in any way at fault for this other than simply being along the same stretch of road at the same time Barto allegedly lost control of his emotions while driving a truck.

The heart of the matter doesn't lie with who has a right to be on the road and who doesn't — we all have a right to be on the road. What it boils down to is an inability to be patient.

Waiting for a clear chance to pass a cyclist will probably delay a motorist only a few seconds at most. But just as is the case when motorists are stuck behind someone going only 70 miles per hour on the freeway, there is occasionally a feeling of frustration — a frustration born from not being as free to zoom around as fast (or as slow) as we'd like.

Bicyclists, coincidentally, are out on the roads seeking that same freedom — they just do it on two wheels while wearing brightly colored lycra.

A common refrain from motorists annoyed with close calls on the road involving bicyclists is the frequent scoffing at the laws of the road shown — and, again, they have a valid point.

Stop signs are frequently rolled through — kind of the way a lot of cars do. Lanes are changed without clear signaling — kind of like too many local motorists do.

I'm an avid cyclist. I stop at every stoplight and try to do the same at stop signs. But I admit to scanning the streets around me and rolling through an intersection if I know I'm not putting myself in danger.

I'll be the first to admit many bike vs. car accidents are not the fault of the motorist — though quite often they, in fact, are.

But seeing someone out there running a red light or failing to signal when changing lanes in a car doesn't give anyone the right to throw things out the window at them any more than it does to a cyclist.

When a cyclist impedes traffic, there are generally three reasons to do so:

1. A bicycle has every right to ride in the middle of the lane, so the sense of entitlement rules; 2. Doing so is sometimes the safest option when shoulders are littered with hazards and debris; 3. The cyclist is oblivious to the world around him or her possibly because of an iPod stuck in their ear.

When a motorist tries to run a bicycle into the curb, though, there is pretty much one reason — the motorist is a jerk with entitlement issues.

Whatever the case, virtually all roads shared by cyclists and motorists are intended to be shared civilly.

Would you run over a person who was walking in the street or throw things at that person? Then why do the same thing to someone on a bicycle? Are you really in that big of a hurry?


E-mail: jeborn@desnews.com