- The Washington Times - Monday, January 7, 2008

STAUNTON, Va. (AP) — A safe-cycling group is helping to raise awareness about bike riders and create safer routes for bicycles through one of Virginia’s scenic regions.

Lee Hersch created Citizens for Safe Cycling after he was struck while riding his bike about a decade ago.

“It made me realize how poor our shoulders and riding circumstances were,” said Mr. Hersch, who was not seriously injured. “Our roads aren’t primarily built to accommodate cyclists and motorists.”

The group since evolved into an advisory committee for the Central Shenandoah Planning District Commission, and its activism has brought results.

The planning panel identified more than 40 bicycle routes throughout the region, said Bonnie Riedesel, director of planning at the commission.

In response to one of the group’s recommendations, the Virginia Department of Transportation added a paved shoulder to a two-mile stretch of road that is part of a 10-mile loop in Middlebrook, she said.

Last month, “Share the Road” signs were added to the section of the U.S. 250 corridor that runs from Waynesboro to the Blue Ridge Parkway, Miss Riedesel said.

The route is popular with hikers and cyclists entering the city.

Cyclists say the signs work.

“I think it does raise awareness that cyclists are in the area and that they have a right to the road,” said Mark Russell, a member of the committee and the Queen City Cycling Club. “I would like to see more of those signs around.”

Committee members have attended high school driving classes to educate students about bicycles, Miss Riedesel said, and placed radio advertisements that offer safety tips.

Many people don’t understand that cyclists have an equal right to the road, she added.

When a motorist is behind a cyclist, Mr. Russell said, he encourages them to wait until it is safe to pass.

“Ten seconds of your time is not worth someone’s life,” he said.

James Burris, owner of Black Dog Bikes in Staunton, also was hit by a vehicle while riding. He said more education and road improvements are needed.

“I would honestly say within the city limits, it is not as safe as it could be,” he said.

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