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Cyclists to Motorists:Can't We Share Roads Safely?

NORTH SALEM, N.Y. - Purdys resident Donald Gambino started riding a bike when he was a kid. These days he cycles "whenever I can, wherever I can -- and not enough. I've ridden in blizzards, ice, rain and snow -- although I don't recommend it."

What Gambino does recommend, however, is educating motorists and cyclists on how to share the roads.

"Drivers and cyclists have the same responsibilities and privileges," he said. "Bicycles are part of the traffic pattern. Cyclists are supposed to move over when a car wants to pass but sometimes the shoulder is too narrow or just non-existent. Cars should slow down and pass only when they can see that it is safe."

Merrill's Law, a New York state law that went into effect in 2010, states that "a minimum of three feet [between a passing car and bicycle] is considered a safe distance," but, "there are occasions when a distance greater than three feet is necessary."

The law was enacted after Merrill Cassell, an avid 66-year-old cyclist, was struck and killed by a bus in Greenburgh in November 2009.

Gambino suggests that cyclists try to plan their outings for light traffic hours. "Friday at 3:00 or 4:00 is different from Wednesday at 3:00 or 4:00."

He advises motorists not to blow their horns at cyclists. "You can hear a car coming. Cyclists have got to be aware of motor traffic -- it's a matter of survival."

If you have tried cycling and did not like it, Gambino suggests, "it's probably because the bike didn't fit the rider. Everything -- size, seat, handlebars, type -- have to be adjusted to the individual."

Gambino recommends that beginners start out at the North County Trailways . "You can pick it up in Baldwin Place and go south to Millwood or north to Brewster and beyond. Both ways are great."

He also recommends the Westchester Cycle Club and the Golden Apple - an annual bicycle tour which is scheduled for September 4 this year. It starts in Somers and registrants can choose among a variety of routes according to ability. "The Candy Apple", for instance, is a 15 mile ride offering treats along the way while "The Bad Apple" features challenging climbs -- approximately 7000 feet in total.

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