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Motorists, cyclists must stay aware while sharing roads

By John Clayton, Editor

Gray Court, South Carolina

The death of a Simpsonville cyclist on a Laurens County road this past week served as a reminder that sharing roadways is a partnership among motorists and the Upstate’s growing cycling community, said Jody Thibodeau of the Laurens Police Department Bicycle Unit.

“People just need to slow down and be mindful and respectful of everybody,” Thibodeau said.

Richard Bouchard, 67, of Simpsonville was struck and killed by a motorist Thursday evening while riding his bicycle along Highway 101 near Gray Court. A 16-year-old driver has been charged with driving too fast for conditions in the accident, according to the South Carolina Highway Patrol.

Thibodeau said the same issues with distracted driving that have made highways more dangerous for motorists also are particularly dangerous for cyclists attempting to share the road.

“You can potentially hurt or kill yourself if you’re going down the road texting and not paying attention,” he said. “Just focus and pay attention — be looking up and not down. Speed limits are there for a reason, too. They’re not just there for your safety but for the safety for others.”

Thibodeau and the LPD Bike Unit started the Gimme 3 SC initiative to promote safety measures for cyclists. “Gimme 3” refers to allowing at least a three-foot buffer while passing cyclists on roads.

“When you see a cyclist, give them as much space as you possibly can when you go around them,” he said.

While motorists need to be aware of cyclists on the road, particularly as cycling becomes more popular in the area and as cyclists venture from Greenville County to find less-crowded roads to travel, cyclists also have to continue to be more aware of their surroundings as well.

“We need to stay as far to the right as we can,” said Thibodeau, noting that South Carolina traffic laws treat bicycles the same as motorized vehicles, allowing them the full lanes, but courtesy and common sense keeps cyclists to the right as much as possible.

Thibodeau said cyclists also should wear bright colors and use front and rear lights. New strobe lights have helped make cyclists more visible on the road, but awareness remains key, he said.

“We are always looking behind us one way or another,” Thibodeau said. “A lot of us use mirrors on our helmets or on the bikes.”

Cyclists can also plan rides on safe routes to try and mitigate the dangers of sharing the road with larger motorized vehicles.

“Really, folks have to be mindful all the way around,” Thibodeau said. “You never know what you’re going to encounter on the road whether you’re a cyclist or a motorist.”

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