Three feet. That's all they're asking for. From drivers. And from cyclists, too.
This is the simple - but critically important - message being delivered by Andy Bestwick and his 25 teammates on the Las Vegas-based Allegiant Air cycling team.
They're calling the initiative Three Feet for Pete in honor and memory of teammate Pete Makowski, who was killed in June when he was struck from behind by a gravel truck while on a training ride.
Bestwick says the team is planning a memorial ride in honor of Makowski, while at the same time doing everything it can to raise awareness about the State of Nevada law that mandates drivers give cyclists a three-foot berth when passing. [Similar laws exist in some but not all of the other 49 states. See a full breakdown here.]
"After the accident the whole team got together to remember Pete, and also to talk about what happened," recalled Bestwick, co-founder and co-director of the 10-year-old elite amateur race team that includes masters and developmental level riders. "We realized as a group that we didn't always do everything we could to ride safely."
So the team decided to do something about it.
"We asked ourselves what would Pete ask of us and what would he do to prevent further loss of life," continued Bestwick. "The answers came to us through our understanding of Pete as an individual. Pete was a jet mechanic and spent almost every waking hour of his life fixing things to perfection, including himself. So we put ourselves in his shoes and asked ourselves how can we become safer cyclists? Because that's what Pete would have done."
Indeed, instead of directing all their sorrow and anger at the driver or the tragic circumstances, the Diamondback-sponsored team has dedicated itself to educating drivers about the three-foot rule, and also imploring cyclists to obey a set of best practices that will allow them to better take control of their own safety.
Those three principals are:
1. Know the law and obey it: This goes for drivers and riders. Less confusion on the roadways will lead to safer interactions between cars and riders.
2. Be a defensive rider: Look, listen and consider cars in advance of coming in contact with them. Don't assume a motorist will act a certain way. Also be conservative, cautious, and courteous, while always looking for a safe exit.
3. Seek routes with three feet: Choose riding routes with a bike lane or wide shoulder. Lawmakers and planners across the country have worked hard to provide cyclists with these zones of safety and we should use them.
"We were all really sad and we miss Pete and his great spirit," added Bestwick. "But we also realized that this could have happened to any of us. We've all ridden that road before."
Bestwick and his teammates are working on an educational website, and are hoping to put on the memorial ride in connection with the annual Interbike cycling industry trade show, which takes place in Las Vegas in mid-September. But even if they are not able to get the necessary permits in time, the primary message is already out there.
"Be safe," said Bestwick. "That's the No. 1 message that all cyclists need to hear, understand and implement."
To learn more and get up to date information on the Pete Makowski Memorial Ride, follow the team on Facebook.