'Share the Road' number plates rolled out

Bicycle commuting on Utah roads can be dangerous, even on the way to a ceremonial bill signing meant to boost bike safety.

Daily commuter and Bonneville Cycling Club member Rob Yuschak got cut off by a car Tuesday on his way to see Gov. Jon Huntsman Jr. launch a new "Share the Road" number plates. The driver took a right into a driveway in front of him and Yuschak had to brake hard.

"He saw me," Yuschak said. "He sped up to get in front of me."

Incidents like that, or more perilous ones, happen to him every day on his 16-mile trip to work at REI on 3300 South, he said.

Cyclists and lawmakers who gathered at the Capitol to celebrate the new educational and fundraising number plates told similar tales, but also noted that some cyclists earn disdain and risk injury by ignoring rules of the road. The new number plates are designed to raise awareness and will raise money for education and advocacy.

The number plates are the standard colors of the old "Ski Utah!" logo, with blue numbers on a white background under a red "Utah." To the left of the numbers is a yellow traffic sign with a bicycle on it, and below the numbers the plate reads "SHARE THE ROAD."

Motorists who want one will pay $25 on top of the regular registration fee. The proceeds go to the Utah Bicycle Coalition for education, advocacy and restocking the number plates. With a $10,000 donation from the Bonneville Cycling Club, the coalition raised $18,000 privately to order the first 2,500 plates.

"Over the years I've had water bottles thrown at me. I've been run off the road," said Sen. Wayne Niederhauser, R-Sandy, a cyclist who sponsored SB102 to authorize the number plates. "And I've noticed in groups I've been with that not all cyclists obey the law."

The educational efforts are expected to address both problems -- through publicity and through traffic schools that motorists attend either after receiving a ticket or when they first apply for a driver license.

Utah Bicycle Coalition President Ken Johnson said he hopes his nonprofit group also will steer some funds to help improve trails and bike lanes. His sister, Josie, was killed while cycling in Big Cottonwood Canyon in 2004 and has inspired a yearly safety-awareness ride. He still rides, but doesn't always feel safe.

"When I feel the most vulnerable is when there's not enough road space to accommodate a bike and a car, and when motorists behave like we're not supposed to be there".

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