A new report ranks North Carolina as one of the Top 10 most dangerous states for cyclists. The report comes from an insurance industry magazine article, that used figures from the U.S. Department of Transportation calculating deaths per million for 2011. North Carolina came in 10th, with 2.59 deaths per million people.
"It's very scary," said Kerri Fontaine who was cycling Wednesday on the Blue Ridge Parkway, with her friend and cycling buddy Susan Weaver.
Weaver said she loves to ride the Parkway when it's closed to cars. But Wednesday, it was business as usual, with the Parkway open and cyclists like Weaver riding carefully along the side of the road as cars passed by.
"There is no other place to ride," said Weaver. "I wish they would put bike paths, but that's a lot of money."
Claudia Nix has owned Liberty Bikes in Asheville, with her husband for 34 years. Nix has heard about the report. She says, "it's very threatening." But she pointed out, state legislators recently passed a new streets bill into law, which should make roads more accommodating and safer for cyclists. "It means that they have to consider bicyclists and pedestrians," said Nix, of Department of Transportation officials.
Nix pointed to basic safety measures riders can take to reduce risks on roads. Wearing bright, yellow or orange shirts, jackets, helmets and even neon arm warmers, can make a huge difference, Nix said. Bikers can also put on a small flashing light on their helmet or the back of their bike. Another point she made was urging new and even seasoned cyclists to take a safety course.
Last September octogenarian Dean Davis was riding on the side of rural State Road 28 in western North Carolina when a driver accidentally struck and killed him. Road biking has inherent dangers, but cyclists who stay alert and take precautions Nix said, without question, can reduce their risk of getting hurt.
by Kimberly King
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