Working together toward safer streets

Courtesy Ashley DaleSteve Lasco, fourth from right in the red, joined with community leaders and members of Musclepowered to promote National Bike Month.

Courtesy Ashley DaleSteve Lasco, fourth from right in the red, joined with community leaders and members of Musclepowered to promote National Bike Month.

The benefits of cycling - improved health and fitness, quality family time, reduced fuel consumption and air pollution, attractive tourism draw - are well documented.

At a recent Board of Supervisors meeting, Mayor Bob Crowell spoke about the high value that quality of life holds when attempting to attract businesses to Nevada's capital city.

Cycling and other outdoor recreation activities are key components of that quality of life. By developing and improving bicycle and pedestrian trails and adding hundreds of acres of open space to its network of public lands, Carson City has ridden and walked its talk regarding cycling's role in a healthy, attractive city, one that tourists want to visit and to which businesses seek to move.

So what's the difficulty?

The fact is that while Carson City has officially embraced cycling, many Nevada motorists have not. I'm on my bicycle in and around Carson City six or seven days a week, and I encounter distracted, careless, even openly hostile motorists just about every day.

From people rolling through stop signs to not looking both ways before entering an intersection to driving with a phone in one hand and a drink, sandwich, or dog in the other to not using turn signals to screaming obscenities and throwing things at me, I can tell you that it's highly dangerous out there all too often.

I realize that everyone is busy. And I realize that not everyone rides a bike, and that too many cyclists run stop signs, go the wrong way in traffic, or otherwise violate the rules of the road.

But cyclists have rights, both to use roads and trails and to simply exist. We are not "the mosquitoes of the road," as a letter to the Appeal stated some years ago. We are fellow Nevadans, trying to get from point A to point B without being injured or killed by a motorist driving too fast or paying too little attention.

Anyone (myself included) is capable of inattentive driving. Even a state assemblyman.

A couple of weeks ago, I became acquainted with Assemblyman Paul Aizley (D-Las Vegas) at the intersection of Fifth and Roop streets. I was riding in the narrow bike lane on Fifth. Using my arm, I signaled my intent to turn to the vehicles in traffic alongside me. Three or four cars had proceeded east on Fifth when I began my turn.

Suddenly, the car on my left also turned right, into the bike lane. I braked hard but came much too close to smashing directly into the car, which a less experienced cyclist almost certainly would have done. Startled, I roared a bellow of surprise.

The auto passenger rolled down her window and the driver apologized for his not seeing. I accepted his apology and we went our separate ways. That driver was the assemblyman.

Because I had had a similar close call on College Parkway at Emerson Drive the previous day, I was extremely shaken. In that first incident, a pickup truck careened past me, forcing me to swerve, then immediately slammed on its brakes to look for cross-traffic, which forced me to swerve again. Then the driver rolled down his window and unleashed a torrent of obscenities for my hubris at riding a bicycle in full compliance with Nevada law.

I reported the incident to the Carson City Sheriff's Department and a deputy took my statement along with that of an eyewitness. We provided the vehicle make and model and a license plate number and driver description. However, I have not yet been given the opportunity to have this rage-filled motorist cited for his unsafe driving. That man didn't kill me that day, but he might kill you or your child today.

Assemblyman Aizley was gracious enough to invite me onto the Assembly floor last week to share my message of cyclist safety and motorist awareness. What had begun as a near-miss car-bike collision was transformed into mutual respect with handshakes and a positive outcome.

That's why he agreed to support my message by co-authoring this article with me.

And so I urge all Nevadans to follow the Assemblyman's example by paying more attention, driving at posted speed limits, following traffic laws, and recognizing cyclists' right to ride. I don't believe that respect and coexistence is too great a burden to expect. Neither does Assemblyman Aizley, Mayor Crowell or Sheriff Kenny Furlong.

• Steven R. Lasco is 40-year cycling survivor and the current chairperson of the Carson City Parks & Recreation Commission.

Paul Aizley, D-Las Vegas, is a retired UNLV mathematics professor and a two-term Nevada assemblyman.


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