NASHVILLE - As car and bicycle traffic grows heavier in the state, some bike enthusiasts are seeking new laws and tougher enforcement of existing ones to deal with motorists who hog the highways.
State lawmakers are considering legislation that would require cars to keep a 3-foot cushion between themselves and a bike when passing.
Drivers will pay closer attention if they receive tickets for endangering their pedaling counterparts, said Shannon Hornsby, executive director of the group Walk Bike, which promotes walking and biking in Nashville and is making a top priority out of prodding police to issue more citations to careless drivers.
Hornsby said many drivers fail to follow basic safety rules in sharing the road and frequently park their cars in bike lanes.
More cities in Tennessee are inviting more cyclists to public roads through bike lanes and routes that run alongside cars. Bicycling is more common, but so are conflicts.
Middle Tennessee has some of the highest car-bike crash rates in the state, according to statistics from the Department of Safety. Between 2003 and 2006, the Tennessee Highway Patrol recorded 249 incidents in Nashville and 88 in Rutherford County.
There's no reliable way to track how many tickets officers issue motorists who endanger cyclists because those citations aren't kept separate from car-on-car incidents at many Tennessee police stations.
In Nashville, police spokesman Don Aaron said the department has received few complaints from bike enthusiasts. But even experienced cyclists say the roadways can be dangerous.
Dan Hensley said a car sideswiped him twice last year on his two-wheeled, 20-mile commute into Brentwood.
Hensley said he gave a nearby police officer the car description and the names of witnesses who saw the incident. But the officer refused to cite the driver because no one was hurt, according to Hensley. "It's like going 5 miles over the speed limit. You're never going to get pulled over for that," he said. Toks Omishakin, bicycle and pedestrian coordinator for Nashville, thinks more education is needed. "A lot of motorists don't actually know the cyclists have the same right" to the road, Omishakin said. Some police officers are in the same boat, he added. "If they don't understand that, how can you get progress?" (AP) Information from: The Tennessean, http://www.tennessean.com AP-CS-03-30-07 1403EDT