Recently, three competitive bicyclists training in the far East Valley were run into and critically injured by a driver who was reportedly adjusting her GPS device. As a bicycling advocate, I’m very upset by this. But, this story and situation is much larger than cycling. It’s about attitudes and behavior behind the wheel.

Three good guys, competitive athletes and family members are possibly alive today only because another group riding behind them included four medically-trained bicyclists. It took more than 15 minutes for an ambulance to arrive.

But, the main point I want to make is that these guys were riding single-file in a bike lane and/or at the far right of the road. They were “sharing the road” and respecting motor vehicle drivers’ space more than required by law (riders can ride two abreast, legally).

With all the technology moving into cars and cell phones, there are a multitude of distractions for drivers that didn’t exist five or 10 years ago. Yet, our expectations of drivers, as codified in our laws and as reflected in societal behaviors, have not kept pace. It is inexcusable, in my opinion, that a driver is doing anything in a car (other than having an uncontrollable medical event) that causes them to drive off the road into a bike lane or shoulder where bicyclists are riding, a couple is walking their dog (narrowly missed in this particular incident, I am told) or young children are walking.

If you are “anti-bike,” think about having your child or grandchild in the same space that these cyclists were riding. Or, think about your parents or grandparents walking there … or you being there with your pet in front of you and being run over.

Again, this is not solely a bicycling issue. However, I will remind readers that current law specifies penalties and fines for killing a bicyclist or pedestrian that are substantially less than marginally exceeding BAC (blood alcohol content) limits for alcohol, but injuring nobody.

I’m not suggesting any lowering of DUI limits, and I fully support what MADD (Mothers Against Drunk Driving) has achieved. I’m simply suggesting that pedestrians and bicyclists don’t have the same “lobbying strength,” but common sense and humanity should provide our Legislature and local communities the impetus to create penalties for such behavior at a comparable or higher level so that drivers begin to get the message. It is beyond time to send a message that driving a potentially lethal vehicle is serious business.

It is not OK to treat driving as a casual endeavor. People’s lives, health, livelihoods and quality of life are in danger from a driver’s lax attitude and inattention. Let’s get people refocused on the concept that driving involves the responsibility of keeping other road users safe, be the other drivers, bicyclists, pedestrians or pets/animals.

When you drive, you do not own the road, you share it with others.

• Ahwatukee Foothills resident Bob Beane is president of the Coalition of Arizona Bicyclists.

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