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Sharing the road is a two-way street

If you never ride a bicycle, please stop reading this column.

That's right; move on to the next story.

I want to speak to my fellow cyclists, privately.

We all know that rural Central Kentucky is a cyclist's paradise — the gently rolling landscape, the vast web of small, lightly traveled roads and the gorgeous scenery.

In the past few years, thanks to the Newberry administration and the Urban County Council, Lexington has made a lot of progress toward becoming a more bicycle-friendly city.

Each week, it seems, I see new bike lanes on roads that need them. Several bike paths and trails are planned. It's a good thing: Each time gasoline prices spike, I see more people riding bicycles to work, to run errands and to get themselves in shape.

So what's the biggest thing holding back cyclists in Lexington? We are. Not all of us, of course, but more of us than we would like to admit.

I ride my bicycle about 2,000 miles a year in Central Kentucky, and I drive several thousand more miles.

Sure, I occasionally encounter rude motorists when I'm cycling. I have had drivers cut me off, pass too close, pull out in front of me, honk, holler and glare. I was even hit once by a lit cigar stub thrown from a passing truck's window.

Some people in oversized pickups seem to think they have a constitutional right to drive 50 mph on a country road too narrow for a center stripe. Other drivers think the roads belong to them, and cyclists should stick to trails and sidewalks — even though riding a bike on the sidewalk is against the law.

Last weekend in Bourbon County, a woman in a red Honda passed our single-file cycling group going up a blind hill on a double-yellow line. Then she stopped in the middle of the road to chat with a buddy going the other way, forcing us to ride slowly between them. Then she passed us again on another blind hill. What a fool.

Honestly, though, I see more dangerous cyclists than dangerous drivers.

Admit it — you do, too.

Sad to say, some of them are my Lycra-clad brethren, who should know better. They ride in packs across the road, rather than two abreast, as the law requires, or single file, which is safer. Others blow through stop signs and act as if stoplights are for other people.

Most of the offenders I see, though, are people who don't take bicycling seriously. Or they seem to be new at it. They ride on sidewalks. They ride on the wrong side of the street. They weave through traffic and run stop signs and lights.

Some of them don't wear helmets. Others wear headphones or earbuds. I guess that's so they won't be bothered by those big, noisy trucks whose drivers might not be able to see them.

Many cyclists I know have never been shy about yelling at dangerous drivers.

But shouldn't we do the same when we see dangerous cyclists?

For those who don't know any better, tactful correction might help them learn. If they just don't care, maybe they need to know that others do. And, of course, nothing is more effective than modeling good cycling behavior yourself.

If you care about everyone sharing the road more safely, be willing to speak up and be a good example. Better yet, get involved in local bicycle safety and education programs.

There's a list of organizations and efforts on the Lexington-Fayette Urban County Government's Web site. (You can find the link on my blog.)

In May, certified instructors organized several bike safety clinics around town. The University of Kentucky is offering bicycle education classes for students, faculty and staff this fall.

City officials have applied for a grant to offer a more extensive "share the road" program next spring, said Kenzie Gleason, the city's bicycle and pedestrian coordinator. I hope they get it.

Sharing the road more safely will make Lexington a better city for everyone, but cyclists must take the lead.

It could be a matter of life and death. Maybe even yours.