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by Abigail Van Buren

DEAR ABBY: Summer is upon us, and millions of fellow cyclists across the country will once again be out on the roads. I personally ride around 4,000 miles a year in training, and thought I'd offer a few tips.

Many drivers mistakenly believe that cyclists have no rights on public roads and feel compelled to "teach them a lesson," deliberately endangering their lives.

The fact is, a bicycle is classified as a vehicle on the public roads in all 50 states.

Tips for drivers:

1. Don't get too close. Cyclists want to be left alone. Cyclists are NOT required to ride on the shoulder, on the sidewalk or 2 inches from the edge of the road.

2. Don't pass a cyclist and then slow down, stop or turn in front of him. Sometimes we are going as fast as you are.

3. Don't honk. You're likely to startle an inexperienced cyclist or a child and cause him or her to fall.

Tips for cyclists:

1. Wear a helmet.

2. Make eye contact with drivers. Make sure they see you.

3. Ride on the right side of the road.

4. Obey traffic laws.

5. Signal turns. Point left or right.

6. Ride in a straight line and don't block traffic.

7. Carry a cell phone. You might need it to get help for yourself or a stranded motorist.

Thanks, Abby. The life you save by printing this may be my own -- or thousands of others! -- A FITNESS CYCLIST FOR 40 YEARS

DEAR FITNESS: If printing your letter saves just one life, it is well worth the space in this column. I hope all motorists and cyclists -- of all ages and levels of experience -- will take your advice.

DEAR ABBY: This is in response to the letter from Sharon Lewandowski, whose godson committed suicide. I absolutely support her message to encourage those in need to seek help. Yet I am moved to make another important point:

People nowadays are so busy that they don't always keep in touch with family and loved ones as they should. We should reach out and let people know we're thinking of them from time to time, regardless of whether they are in need or not.

All it takes is a card or phone call to say, "Hi! I'm thinking of you -- just wanted to know how you're doing." This contact from others can encourage those in need to reach out, and it can help us all feel more loved and less alone.

Please, remind your readers to take the time to keep in touch. It can make a huge difference in someone's life. -- BARBARA A. HART, POWDER SPRINGS, GA.

DEAR BARBARA: That valuable message is one we cannot be reminded of too often, especially since it's not always known to us that someone is experiencing what feels like insurmountable problems. Consistent, casual contact can provide comfort that may be desperately needed. And you're right, Barbara -- we all benefit from staying in touch!

For an excellent guide to becoming a better conversationalist and a more attractive person, order "How to Be Popular." Send a business-sized, self-addressed envelope, plus check or money order for $3.95 ($4.50 in Canada) to: Dear Abby Popularity Booklet, P.O. Box 447, Mount Morris, IL 61054-0447. (Postage is included.)

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