WHILE MOST commuting is done on four wheels, another mode of transportation has long been overlooked by your wheelster. But no more.
Cyclists -- 99 million of them nationwide -- also command an important part of our roads. And it's time four-wheelers gave them their due respect.
"Many motorists don't understand biker and cycling safety on the road," writes John T. Overstreet, safety-awareness chairman of the Baltimore Bicycling Club. "A lot of bikers are sideswiped by motorists that pass them."
In 1997, 1,103 accidents involving cyclists and motorists were reported in Maryland. That accounts for 1.1 percent of all traffic accidents in the state last year, and the statistic includes 17 deaths and 930 injuries. So far this year, there have been five bicyclist fatalities.
Such figures paint a grim portrait for cyclists.
Maryland law states bicycle riders must follow the same laws of the road that drivers do. This means stopping at all red lights, signaling intent to turn and not swerving in and out of traffic lanes.
But in Baltimore, bicycle commuting is difficult for many reasons.
For starters, this is an older city with narrow roads, a lack of sidewalks at certain places and lots of street parking.
Then there's the all-time affront to a Charm City bicyclist: All drain grates near the shoulder of the road are positioned with slats ready to gobble up the tires of any cyclist who dares ride over them. It's enough to make you scream.
Intrepid One suggests a few pointers for motorists when encountering a cyclist on the road:
Don't blast a horn at a cyclist; a gentle "toot" will do to alert them a vehicle is approaching.
Assume that cyclists will ride three to four feet from the curb, which allows them to avoid road hazards and be more visible to motorists and pedestrians.
When passing a cyclist, do so carefully and check in the rearview mirror to make sure the cyclist is at a safe distance before merging back into the lane.
On narrow, curving roads, slow behind a cyclist and remain behind the biker until it is safe to pass.
Many of these suggestions seem like common sense, but too often bikers are abused by motorists too impatient and ignorant to tackle the situation safely.
Bicycle trails are another safety option. In Baltimore, a trail currently under construction linking the Gwynns Falls Park to the Inner Harbor will provide a nature-laden commute when it's completed. Another trail is planned along the Jones Falls.
In the 'burbs, Columbia has an extensive network of sidewalks and bike paths, and the North Central Railroad Trail in Sparks is another example of a beautiful ride.
A 1995 poll by the University of Maryland Survey Research Center showed that 8,500 cyclists use a bike to get to work or school each day. That poll also showed that about 180,000 adults in the state "occasionally" use a bicycle to commute.
With that in mind, let's add another commandment to the road: Honor the cyclist.
Sore spot is healed on Interstate 695
There aren't many places more infamous among Interstate 695 commuters than the spot on the Inner Loop near Reisterstown Road where, every morning, four lanes suddenly became three, backing up traffic to Liberty Road or beyond some days.
Now it's gone! As of July 22, four lanes remained four all the way down the hill to Interstate 83, where the new right-hand lane peels off to become the exit to I-83 south, heading downtown.
But Intrepid warns of possible bottlenecking as workers resurface the Inner Loop's four lanes as part of the final touches to the $55 million Beltway widening project.
State Highway Administration spokesman David Buck promised that most of the work will be done at night, beginning at 7 p.m.
The nearly three-year expansion, to widen the highway from six to eight lanes between Reisterstown Road and Interstate 83, is expected to be completed in the fall.
Motorists can drive for less this summer
Those with a hankering for long-distance driving can do it more cheaply than last summer. Maryland motorists are now paying an average of 10 1/2 cents less per gallon of gas than at this time last year, according to AAA Mid-Atlantic.
The July survey of 30 stations in the state found that the average price per gallon for regular, self-service unleaded gasoline was $1.086, with premium at $1.265. Full-service ranged from $1.423 for a gallon of regular gasoline to $1.585 for premium. Prices were similar last month.
AAA Mid-Atlantic said the low prices may be due in part to the expectation of cheap crude oil for the next six quarters.
Pub Date: 7/27/98