People who know me know I bike everywhere.
I have bicycled across the country twice solo and have biked in every major city in the country except Atlanta, Dallas and Houston. There's not a place where I think you can't ride a bicycle.
So, people with good intentions are always telling me, "Be safe," when I take off on my bicycle.
Believe me, I'm trying to be safe out here.
But you can help me much better by doing this: Instead of telling me to "be safe" tell your fellow motorists when they're about to drive a car to slow down, respect bicyclists as fellow road users and traffic, focus on the road, look for bicyclists and pedestrians and stay the fuck off your cell phones when piloting a 4,000-pound bullet on wheels.
You'll have to excuse me if I feel a tad irritated these days about the state of bicycling in metro Las Vegas when an eighth bicyclist in 2015 was killed by a motorist in metro Las Vegas on August 3. Matthew Hunt, a married father of two, was conducting a bike tour for one bicycling customer on the Strip at 8 a.m. on a Monday when a 23-year-old woman driving a Ford Mustang drove into Matthew from behind.
Six days later on Sunday, Matthew succumbed to his head injuries sustained from being crashed into by the motorist.
Matthew should be leading bike tours this weekend. Instead, his family and friends will be mourning his loss and celebrating his life at a service on Saturday at 2 p.m. at Our Lady of Las Vegas Catholic Church. Then, people will move on to a Celebration of Matthew's life at the Wyndham Grand Desert Resort at 265 E. Harmon from 3-6 p.m.
Matthew's death means that metro Las Vegas is averaging one dead bicyclist a month in 2015, an outrageously high number when even one death on a bicycle is one too many. About 750 bicyclists die every year in the U.S. -- along with about 35,000 motorists.
Responses from bicyclists and non-bicyclists to Matthew's death have varied from "increasing awareness" to bicyclists shouldn't be on the Strip to "was he wearing a helmet?" (yes he was.)
Here's the thing. Handing out helmets, lights and reflectors are fine. But motorists will continue to kill bicyclists (and get away with it with minimum punishment) as long as bicyclists are not seen as regular traffic.
The fact is there is neither the political will nor public dollars to build an independent bicycle trail system to get bicyclists every place they need to go.
That means bicyclists will be on the roads and that means motorists have to treat bicyclists AS EQUAL CO-USERS OF THE ROAD.
It means making a conscious effort to be aware for a profile of a bicycle and not just a car on the road and slowing down and respecting a bicyclist as a co-user who just happens to be driving a slower moving vehicle.
It means focusing your senses completely on the act of driving your two-ton metal bullet and not messing around with a cell phone.
It means driving your car more slowly and easing off the gas pedal.
When a motorist drives into another car, that second driver is surrounded by steel, air bags and plastic.
A bicyclist is a vulnerable road user. So when you crash into a bicyclist, the impact and subsequent injuries are exponentially more devastating.
From what I've seen in the metro Las Vegas area, there will be regrettably more bicyclist deaths. I don't see any political leadership on the issue, and there have been a few media stories out there about the need for more awareness but nothing more than that.
The Department of Motor Vehicles must hammer into driver's heads that bicyclists are everywhere and that they are equal co-users of our right-of-ways. You should not be able to hold a driver's license if you are unable to safely drive a car with a bicyclist in the road and the DMV needs to teach drivers how to respect a bicyclist's right to the road.
I helped put up too many memorial white bicycles in Tampa, Fla, when I worked on bicycle issues there when motorists were killing bicyclists on Florida.
And the same damn feeling of hurt and pain is going through my gut here in Las Vegas because too many bicyclists are getting killed.