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Bicyclists seek peaceful coexistence with motorists in city

| Saturday, Sept. 20, 2008, 12:00 p.m.

Pittsburgh police bicycle Officer Matt Lackner sees cyclists and motor vehicle drivers clash on city streets every day.

He wishes the motoring public was more educated about the laws governing bicyclists, and he wants to see both sides respect each other a bit more.

"I see the way motorists treat even me, and then they see the uniform and they ease up a little," said Lackner, a 13-year police veteran. "I think we need to spend more money on signs reminding motorists and bicyclists to share the road."

Several bicyclists joined officials from the Allegheny County Health Department and PennDOT at the foot of the bicycle path on the Hot Metal Bridge Friday afternoon to discuss bicycle safety.

"The law says bicyclists are allowed to use the roadway just like a vehicle, but there are many instances where motorists don't know that, and the two sides don't get along," said David L. Pritt Jr., safety press officer for PennDOT.

Pritt said PennDOT officials are informally surveying bicyclists to see if they believe additional "Share the Road" signs should be placed and what other educational efforts should be launched.

Dave Bialosky, membership chairman of the Western Pennsylvania Wheelmen -- a bicycling group with more than 300 members in a seven-county area, said he'd like to see more information about the laws governing bicyclists included in driver's education courses and offered when drivers renew their license or vehicle registration.

"Bicyclists are very vulnerable because we're just out there with no protection," Bialosky said.

Rocky Raco knows that firsthand. The Mt. Lebanon cyclist was riding in Cecil in July when a motorist cut in front of him and another bicyclist. Raco swerved and flew over his handlebars, crashing to the ground.

He suffered a broken collarbone and ribs, internal bleeding and a concussion.

"A lot of motorists don't know what to do when they see a bicyclist," Raco said. "They hesitate to pass us and then they start to get really impatient, so they pass at the worst possible moment and there's a crash. We need to figure out a way to share the road a little better."

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