If you’re driving near Cyndi Steiner, grand marshal of Sunday’s fourth annual Gran Fondo NJ, give her plenty of room.
The former bike racer is on a mission to make state roads safer for cyclists through enactment of a “safe passing” law.
It’s a measure that calls for motorists to allow at least four feet of clearance when passing bikers.
“We need all cyclists’ support,” said Steiner, a Montclair resident who serves as executive director of the New Jersey Bike & Walk Coalition.
Twenty-three states already have safe passing laws; New Jersey is the only northeastern state without one, she said.
A bill (A1577/1600) sponsored by Assemblywomen L. Grace Spencer (D-29th Dist.) and Linda Stender (D-22nd Dist.) cleared the Assembly in May and has been referred to the Senate transportation committee, Steiner said.
The Assembly bill calls for motorists to allow at least four feet of clearance when passing cyclist or pedestrians. Violations would bring fines of up to $500.
Pedestrians are defined as persons in wheelchairs, contractors and employees of utilities, property maintenance workers and anyone else “legally permitted to be upon the roadway for work or recreation.”
“This law is about giving vulnerable road users adequate space on the road, and raising awareness that they have a right to use the roads as well,” Steiner said.
Fourteen cyclists and 131 pedestrians died in traffic-related accidents last year.
Steiner was quick to note that most motorists do observe proper caution, and that less than half of cycling accidents involve motor vehicles. Last month’s tragic biking fatality in Mendham Township last month, for example, did not involve cars.
But the need to raise awareness in the motoring public remains high.
“When there are interactions with cars, the consequences are much more severe,” said Steiner, a former information systems manager who holds degrees from Cornell University and the Stevens Institute of Technology.
Steiner hopes to reverse New Jersey’s backslide in a ranking of bike-friendly states. The League of American Bicyclists recently dropped the Garden State from No. 7 to No. 12.
GRAN FONDO, GRAND TURNOUT?
Some 2,000 cyclists are anticipated in Morristown on Sept. 7, 2014, for the Fondo, an assortment of rides ranging from 18- to 107 miles. Registration is $215 and includes food and music after the ride. A portion of proceeds will benefit the bike coalition and local nonprofits The Seeing Eye Inc., Homeless Solutions Inc., Grow It Green Morristown and Sustainable Morristown.
Mountain biking legend Gary Fisher also will be on hand for the festivities.
Marty Epstein, who conceived the Grand Fondo NJ, sells lots of bikes at Marty’s Reliable Cycle in Morristown. He’s a big fan of the passing law–and of Cyndi Steiner.
“The passing law will give cyclists some rights and will allow an education process for all to begin,” Epstein said.
He considers Steiner the leading cycling advocate in the Tri-State area.