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COURSEY: Raising awareness – not fear – on the roads

As a friend and I rolled up to the stoplight at North Street and College Avenue on Thursday morning, the woman in the car next to us rolled down her passenger-side window.

"Aren't you guys nervous?" she asked.

The question didn't come as a surprise. It was in the air this week, and on the lips of friends and family and yes, even strangers. It was delivered sometimes with concern, sometimes with derision, sometimes with curiosity, sometimes with snark.

Who in their right mind is out riding a bicycle on Sonoma County roads these days?

Five bicyclists have been killed this year in collisions with motor vehicles — a statistical spike that has been amply documented on the pages of The Press Democrat. It seems almost everyone is aware of it; it seems almost everyone is thinking about it and, in the past few days, it seems almost everyone is talking about it.

This is a good thing, if you believe that anything good can result from so much tragedy. We all should be more aware about our behavior on the roads, whether we are traveling on four wheels, two wheels or no wheels at all.

But some people, including people close to me, have suggested that all of these recent deaths should have me and other cyclists reconsidering the wisdom of riding bikes on area roads.

"It's getting more dangerous out there," a friend said to me on Thursday evening.

I disagreed.

There are more cyclists on the road every day, making it statistically likely that more cyclists will be involved in accidents — but not making it more likely that any individual cyclist will get hurt. Meanwhile, this newspaper has recognized the increasing popularity and importance of bicycling in this community, and provides extensive coverage of any accident resulting in serious injury or death. That makes cycling appear more dangerous to those who aren't out on bikes.

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