Bicycle safety on Arizona roadways


by Brandy Aguilar, Special Projects

Posted on October 14, 2011 at 3:20 PM

Updated Friday, Oct 14 at 3:27 PM

PHOENIX -- Arizona has the fourth highest bicycle fatality rate in the United States. Now, one Valley agency is hoping to make things a lot safer.

“I was hit from behind, someone was doing 65 mph,” Dale Ramsey said.

Ramsey was knocked off his bike on State Highway 89 more than a year ago. He was traveling from Congress toward Wickenburg when the accident happened.

“It was probably six months before the doctor released me to get back on the bike,” Ramsey said.

He suffered four broken vertebrae and a compression fracture in his back.

“It's not going to stop me from being out there,” Ramsey said. "However, when I hear a car coming up behind me and I’m alone, I do cringe now.”

Ramsey was lucky. In 2009, data from The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration showed that 25 cyclists died in Arizona.  

“It's the work of a lot of different agencies that came together to partner together to find a solution about how to reduce the number of bicycle crashes and fatalities,” Laura Douglas said.

Douglas is a spokeswoman for the Arizona Department of Transportation. The agency is spearheading a bicycle safety action plan that will be finalized in just a few weeks.

“The goal is to reduce the number of bicycle-motor vehicle crashes by 12 percent by the year 2018,” Douglas said.

“Arizona was one of the first states to pass the 3-foot rule,” Douglas continued. “This means motorists have to give bicyclists 3 feet of room when passing them on the road and other states have followed suit.”

Valley lawyer Tommy Richardson believes education is key to making the roads safer.

“It's encouraging that ADOT is paying attention to it,” Richardson said. “If nothing else, it sparks these news events. It sparks public awareness.”

As for Ramsey, he doesn't mind sharing the road. He just wants all parties to be aware of the do's and the don’ts.

“The 30 seconds it takes you to slow up to pass safely are going to beat the amount of time you spend dealing with an accident or if you do feel guilty that you killed someone or put them in the hospital,” Ramsey said.

Some of the recommendations in the bicycle safety action plan will come from ADOT’S analysis of bicycle-motor vehicle crashes that took place between 2004 and 2008.