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Bikes and big trucks are a dangerous mix

More Americans are commuting to work these days on bicycles, which is good for both the waistline and the environment. But it can also be deadly due to the increased contact cyclists have with large and heavy trucks like semis, 18-wheelers and the other behemoths that clog the roads on any given day.

One can only imagine the horrific results of a clash between a bicyclist or pedestrian and a large truck. Those riding to work or elsewhere in major cities often fare the worst, as that is the location of most bike fatalities.

Experts in the safety field fear the problem will worsen before it improves due to the increased number of e-commerce businesses that draw big rigs into urban neighborhoods while cities encourage residents to cycle more with construction of bike lanes, implementation of bike-sharing networks and other improvements to the cities' infrastructure.

One engineer with the federal research institute, the John A. Volpe National Transportation Systems Center, predicted the situation can develop into "a collision course, [with] more trucks in cities, more urban freight, at the same time that you have more bicycling and walking."

Advocates for increased safety have their own wish list, including:

-- Additional driver training

-- Restrictions for large trucks on the busiest thoroughfares

-- Additional federal funds earmarked for pedestrian and bicycle safety programs

-- Better-designed streets

-- More stringent penalties for negligent drivers who maim and kill pedestrians and cyclists

Truck side guards, those sets of metal bars between two sets of a truck's wheels, may prevent people from being crushed under the wheels of big rigs. As a last line of defense for pedestrians and cyclists, they could save numerous lives.

Until those provisions become a reality in urban areas, those who walk and bike on city streets must use extra caution. Those injured by negligent or aggressive truckers can seek civil damages from the courts.

Source: Public Source, "As bicycle commuting rises, so does danger of pedaling by trucks," Bridget Huber, accessed Nov. 20, 2015

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