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“Hating bikes,” “Raging at cyclist,” “Share the road” — all headlines on recent letters to the editor about the continuing conflict between drivers and bicyclists in Sonoma County.

“Cyclists have every right to share the road,” and drivers need to realize that, CHP Officer Jon Sloat said. But bicyclists cannot impede traffic, he said.

He said the CHP gets complaints from motorists about cyclists, such as they’re riding three abreast and not making way for cars or they’re running stop signs. Bicyclists call about drivers who act aggressively or dangerously toward cyclists, he said. In investigating the cases, he said, officers find drivers are to blame half the time and cyclists the other half of the time.

Some incidents “verge on assault” by the drivers, he said.

But Sloat said the CHP hasn’t “charged anyone in the last year due to lack of evidence or witnesses. When something like this occurs, it’s like a road rage incident. We need to have a description, license plate, and victim that can ID the suspect. In cases where we have a plate only, we can’t file charges, but we send out warning notices to the registered owners.”

“It is tough from the victims standpoint, in that when these occur, they are trying to maintain control of a bike, while a vehicle is speeding by, and it is difficult to get that information, or even a good look at the car in many cases,” he said.

Under the state vehicle code, he said, bicyclists should ride as close to the right edge of the road as practicable. Click here to read passage.

“If two ride abreast, they may do so if the bike on the roadway side does not interfere with traffic,” Sloat said. “If they do interfere with the normal flow of traffic, they could be cited just as a motor vehicle would be.”

But he said the “exact language of the section could also be interpreted as never ride side by side unless passing.” He said he was checking with Sacramento CHP officials for clarification.

Christine Culver, executive director of the Sonoma County Bicycle Coalition, said the number of incidents reported by cyclists this year appears unchanged from recent years. The coalition’s website CLICK HERE has a form that riders who believe they were harassed by a motorist can fill out to submit to the bicycle coalition, which keeps track of incidents, and to use to give the information to police.

She said “really few” bicyclists don’t follow the rules of the road and don’t make way for cars and trucks when they should.

To help spread the word on bike safety and traffic laws, she said the coalition works with some local police agencies, schools and cycling clubs. Culver also writes an insightful blog for pressdemocrat.com that includes safety tips for bicyclists CLICK HERE.

Here are some tips for motorists and bicyclists to help everyone get along and be safe:

–For motorists, be patient when you find cyclists ahead. When passing, keep at least three feet away from cyclists to ensure a margin of safety. If the cyclist(s) don’t move over in a timely manner — do give them a chance — perhaps they don’t know you’re there, so a slight, friendly toot of the horn may be in order to alert them to your presence. Smile.

–For bicyclists, be aware of traffic ahead and behind you and follow the rules of the road. Move to the right as soon as you can to allow cars to pass. Especially ride to the right and in single file anywhere a driver coming either way might not see you, such as blind curves or hills. Be predictable as you ride so that you don’t suddenly weave as a car passes. Smile.

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