BLOOMINGTON — To a motorist in a hurry, a bicycle in their lane might be seen as nothing more than an impediment and a bother.
A safety awareness campaign organized by the Bike BloNo advocacy group is trying to change that perspective.
“Our goal here is to humanize the cyclists on the road,” said Mike McCurdy, Bike BloNo vice president, who regularly commutes to his job as WGLT program director.
Bike BloNo President Stefanie Michaelis said the campaign is designed to “put a personal touch on it.”
That's why you'll see electronic billboards around town with split images of the faces of cyclists — one half showing them in a helmet and cycling clothes, the other half in their work attire.
One of them shows Jerica Etheridge of Bloomington, who works in information security at State Farm.
“I'm just an average human who sometimes rides her bike,” said Etheridge. “I ride to run errands, get exercise and enjoy time with friends.”
While riding her bike, Etheridge said, “I've had lots of little things happen, from people yelling at me to passing too close to crowding me at intersections to opening their car doors or slamming on their brakes in front of me.”
Others featured in the campaign include a high school counselor and a dentist.
About 100 yard signs saying “I'm a motorist and a cyclist” have been distributed, and informational ads are on Connect Transit buses, too.
McCurdy says he hopes exposing motorists to the message several times throughout the day will help them start to think of cyclists “as people, not impediments.”
Comments on social media convinced McCurdy that the project is important.
“There is a lot of vitriol out there about cyclists,” he said.
Etheridge said, “You'd like to think most people aren't going to try to purposely hurt another human, but many, many people drive while distracted or are simply unaware of how scary some of their actions might be.”
“Three feet doesn't feel like a lot” when you're a cyclist, said Michaelis. “A car is a steel cage around you. A cyclist only has their skin and bones.”
Everyone should obey traffic laws, those involved agree. But McCurdy notes, no matter who is at fault, “if there's a crash, the cyclist is going to lose every time.”
Michaelis said, “They (cyclists) are legal users of the road. They have a right to be there.”
Although some critics say, “Ride on the sidewalk,” Michaelis and McCurdy said riding on the sidewalk is less safe — not only because of risks to pedestrians but risks to the cyclists themselves.
“Cyclists are more visible on the road,” said McCurdy.
Motorists backing out of or pulling into driveways or moving through intersections might not be expecting a cyclist on a sidewalk or crosswalk, noted Michaelis.
McCurdy said, “We've been raising funds for five years for this particular project” through events such as Tour de Taco.
The plan is to keep it going through the summer then do another educational push in the fall with the return of college students — many of whom use bicycles to get around but are less experienced at riding in traffic, said McCurdy.
Etheridge said, “I'm hoping that people who see cyclists as something simply in their way will start to realize they are actually their neighbors and co-workers and integrate that understanding into how they drive.”
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