RENO, NV - It's been a tragic week for our local cycling community, after two bike-involved crashes took place within a two-hour span Wednesday. Police say there's been a constant increase in the number of bike crashes in our area--and that the numbers have been ticking upward steadily since 2006.
Police say there were 99 bike versus car crashes last year, compared to just 77 crashes the year before. While officers are still compiling data for 2010, they says the more cyclists on the road, the more crashes we can expect to see.
Wednesday was a bad day for local cyclists. First, a 44-year-old man, allegedly biking under the influence, was seriously hurt after he ran a red light on Kietzke Lane. A short time later, a little boy was hit for failing to look when he left his driveway. And last week, a man was injured in a hit and run bike crash on Oddie Boulevard.
"It's always terrible to hear about accidents. I think it's the biggest thing keeping people from riding bikes more often than they do," said Noah Silverman, who co-founded the not-for-profit cycling advocacy organization, The Reno Bike Project.
Silverman says the group has made great strides in the past year. In 2009, they helped about 9,000 locals get more acquainted with the bicycle lifestyle. Silverman says bike crashes can feel like a step away from everything his organization is trying to overcome.
"Any time cars and bikes mix, especially with alcohol. it casts a negative light on cycling," he said.
And if you ask cyclists and drivers to point the finger, they'll often do it at each other.
"Just give us a little bit of time to get through the intersection. You're in a car. We're pedaling. You've got a gas pedal. Just give bicyclists a little bit more room," said Charles Cruz, who ride an average of 30 miles per day on his bike.
"A lot of bikers on the road are not following the rules of the road. They're not stopping at stop sings and lights," added Reno driver, Carol Vinger.
Police say both sides are equally responsible for sharing the road. While cyclists need to behave like a car and follow traffic rules, cars need to anticipate bikers, keeping in mind that they can be hard to see.
Silverman says in light of the recent increase in crashes, his organization has plans for a new type of education, one that involves not just cyclists, but drivers as well.
"Sharing the road is all about respect for each other," said Silverman.
We did ask police who is more likely to be at fault in a crash, the cyclist or the driver? They say believe it or not, it is fairly even.
Police say what we should take away from all of this is that whether you personally ride a bike or not, Reno is slowly becoming a strong bike community as a whole, and we all need to do our part to keep both bikers and drivers safe.
Police says they attribute the increase in riders partly to the downturn in our economy, as well as increased interest in helping the environment.