Utah Senate President Wayne Niederhauser started seriously bicycling about 25 years ago. He says back then, "I used to be pretty much the only cyclist on the road."
Now, he says, "I go along Wasatch Boulevard in the evenings and there will be hundreds of cyclists."
With such increases statewide, officials on Thursday kicked off the northern Utah portion of the Road Respect Tour. Many state officials and anyone who cares to ride with them are bicycling around northern Utah for three days to urge cyclists and motorists to share the road and educate them about the rules of the road especially some new ones passed this year.
"If cyclists want to have the same respect on the road that motorists have, they need to follow the same rules of the road. In the other direction, motorists need to understand that cyclists do have the same rights to that roadway that they do," said Carlos Braceras, acting executive director of the Utah Department of Transportation.
Braceras, who says he rides his bike about 3,000 miles a year, noted that cars have killed two cyclists so far this year in Utah, three last year and five in 2011 and 850 cyclists a year are injured on average. "I think more people would ride bicycles if they felt it were safe for them," he said.
Utah Highway Patrol Superintendent Daniel Fuhr said, "Cyclists are considered a vehicle on Utah roadways, and they have every right to the road." He said maybe the most important law about sharing the road is that cars must give at least three feet of space to cyclists when passing them.
"I don't think a lot of people know about that. Many only give me one foot," Niederhauser said, adding it has led him to have several crashes through the years.
Fuhr added that a new law by Rep. Johnny Anderson, R-Taylorsville, who was riding with the tour Thursday, allows motorists to "cross the center line when passing a cyclist, even a double-yellow line as long as it is safe to do so. At the same time, cyclists need to be responsible as well. They need to ride on the farthest right portion of the road as possible."
Fuhr noted that a new law also prohibits distracting cyclists to cause harm which has been a problem with people honking, yelling at and even slapping cyclists as they passed them. "It's very, very dangerous," Fuhr said.
Officials started their tour at the Salt Lake City Intermodal Hub station to stress how they are working to make it easier for cyclists to connect to transit. The tour then took a FrontRunner train to Provo before riding 58 miles around Utah Valley.
Other events are scheduled in Ogden and Salt Lake City Friday and Saturday. More information is available at roadrespect.utah.gov.
Road Respect Tour events in SLC, Ogden
P Friday • A 51-mile ride around the Salt Lake Valley begins at 8 a.m. at Liberty Park. A bike fest will be from 5 p.m. to 7 p.m. at Liberty Park with booths, giveaways and a bike rodeo. A circle-the-city tour begins at 7 p.m. at Liberty Park.
Saturday • A children's ride begins at 8 a.m. at the downtown Ogden Amphitheater, 343 E. 25th St. A 40-mile day ride begins there at 8:30 a.m. A community celebration starts at 9 a.m. with giveaways, games and a bike rodeo.