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Dialogue designed to assuage battle of bikes versus cars on local streets

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In an effort to bring civil discourse to a subject that, at least in online discussions, often devolves into angry exchanges, a July 24 gathering will allow bicyclists and motorists to have a meeting of the minds.

The point of "For Safety's Sake: Cyclists and Motorists Coming Together" is to get two-wheeled and four-wheeled operators to realize they can share the road without getting on one another's nerves or, more importantly, in each other's way, said Dana Bagwell of the Clintonville Area Commission.

The meeting will be held from 6 to 9 p.m. July 24 at the headquarters of Charity Newsies, 4300 Indianola Ave.

It is open to anyone, not just Clintonville residents, Bagwell said last week. The executive director of Yay! Bikes and representatives of the Columbus Division of Police and Department of Public Service will be on hand.

The idea for convening such a gathering came about after Bagwell said she noticed a number of online discussions that were "not civil or friendly between motorists or cyclists."

"I've witnessed many conversations get nasty on Facebook particularly," the CAC representative said.

By bringing people face to face to hear experts on laws and safety practices, the hope is they can all get along, she said.

"I think that people are less likely to be so mean to one another if they're actually in person," Bagwell said.

"I think most of the conflict, most of the anxiety we see on the road has to do with either motorists or cyclists not understanding what the rules are, what the law says, what's appropriate and what's not appropriate," Catherine Girves, Yay! Bikes executive director, said last week.

The organization's purpose, according to yaybikes.com, is to "increase trips by bicycle and reduce bicycle crashes in the central Ohio area and beyond."

"One of the confusions that exists for the general public and particularly motorists who aren't informed about bicyclists is where bicyclists belong," Girves said. "You'll hear motorists who think bicycles should be on the sidewalk."

Not only is it illegal in Columbus for an adult to ride a bike on the sidewalk, she added, but also it is one of the most dangerous areas for cyclists.

"It's our hope to just share accurate, useful information and to honestly answer people's questions about what's safe and what's not safe," Girves said.

In spite of the online sparring Bagwell has noticed, the Yay! Bikes executive said there really aren't that many bicyclist-motorist confrontations.

"I ride the roads every day," Girves said. "I'm a year-round commuter cyclist, and overall, the roads are incredibly peaceful. I rarely even get honked at.

"I think there's a perception that it's a battleground out there on the roads."

Bagwell said the police department representative will be on hand to discuss laws and safety issues, while the public service official will explain bike lanes, bike boulevards and "sharrows," and the purpose of each of these designations.

"I hope we have a good turnout," she said. "I hope it's worth the time of everyone who's preparing for it."

Bagwell said she might want to convene similar gatherings in the future.

"My expectation is to see how the first one goes, see how well-attended it is," she said. "I think having it quarterly would probably be worthwhile."

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