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As Deaths Hit Record High, What Can Las Vegas Do To Be Safer For Cyclists?

Another bicyclist died Tuesday night after he was hit by a taxicab in the east valley. 

This death marks the 115th traffic fatality Las Vegas police have investigated this year - making it one of the deadliest on record. 

Safety was one of the main topics of discussion this week at the annual Nevada Bicycle and Pedestrian Summit.

Although noticeable improvements have been made on city infrastructure to make Las Vegas safer for people walking and cycling, we have a long way to go to turn Las Vegas into a cycling friendly city. 

"What's interesting about Las Vegas is that we have a fantastic natural resource pool of places to bike... we're not doing too great on the actual bike commuting numbers," said Alan Snel, the editor of LVsportsbiz.com and avid bicyclist. 

Snel said one of the reasons is that many people work on the Las Vegas Strip and the area is not conducive to commuting by bicycle.

Keely Brooks is the president of the Southern Nevada Bicycle Coalition. She said another problem is how far people live from where they work. She on average the distance is 10 to 15 miles, which is a long distance on bicycle.

One of the reasons for that, according to David Swallow with the Regional Transportation Commission, is that like many cities in the western United States, Las Vegas evolved around the automobile. 

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"Our roadway infrastructure is set up well to serve automobiles but it also does have the room for bicyclists," Swallow said, "I think what we've seen with cities and the county have taken the lead in repurposing some of that pavement into bike facilities."

Swallow said there is already close to 500 lane miles for bicycles throughout the valley, along with another 370 miles of paved trails and the plan is to expand that to more than 2,000 miles in the future.

While the RTC and city governments look to expand bike lanes and pave more trails, people who ride their bicycles on the streets of Southern Nevada all have stories of being side-swiped, nearly hit, yelled at by a driver, but in the case of Dax Timbol, he was actually shot at with a pellet gun.

"I was hit by a pellet gun while just riding," Timbol said, "In the Bishop Gorman [High School] area. I was really surprised."

Timbol is the spokesperson for one of the largest bicycle clubs in Southern Nevada the 702 Shifters.

He says education is a key component to improving safety. Many motorists and bicyclists don't know the laws, including the law that requires drivers to leave three feet between them and a bicyclist.

"In my group alone, we try to educate our members to obey the laws, four-way stops especially," he said.

Brooks believes one of the solutions to bike safety in Southern Nevada is getting more people on bicycles to see the issues cyclists are dealing with.

"I think the vision is to get more kids, more parents, more people on bikes so that they get the experience and then that draws their interest and they recognize and they can really relate to why it's so important to understand these rules and laws," she said.

For Snel, it is not about just about educating drivers and bicyclists about the rules of the roads, but it is also about changing the 'us' and 'them' mentality.

"It's not bicyclists versus motorists," he said, "It's a road culture and we're all bonafide users. The cars, the bicycles they all have their uses."

From Desert Companion: Shifting the narrative on bike safety

Guests

Dax Timbol, spokesperson, 702 Shifters and Vegas Ghost Bikes; Keely Brooks, President of the Southern Nevada Bicycle Coalition; Alan Snel, editor, LVSportsBiz.com; David Swallow, senior director of engineering and technology, RTC