“Share the Road.”

These are more than empty words printed on yellow fluorescent signs to be casually ignored as we rush to our daily destinations. They are a warning to commuters and travelers of all types, a reminder of just what is at stake.

Christopher Evan Rock was killed last Tuesday, April 8, as he rode his bike at the intersection of Bay and Mission Streets. He was struck by the trailer of a quarry truck at around 12:30 p.m. The driver of the truck did not realize anything had happened until police stopped him miles down the road. Rock was an active member of the Santa Cruz deaf community who aspired to become a competitive cyclist. Friends remember him as happy and lighthearted, always giving a smile to those around town.

Rock is the third rider to be killed on Santa Cruz streets in the last year. Lucian Gregg, an 18-year-old student from San Francisco State, died in January on East Cliff Drive. John Myslin, a teacher at Pacific Collegiate School, was also killed in a collision with a truck at Bay and Mission last August.

To call these incidents merely an alarming trend would be an understatement and an injustice to the lives that were lost and shattered in these horrific accidents. These deaths illustrate a failure at the city level to provide adequate infrastructure for the biking community, but more importantly, they reveal that our transportation culture has some seriously deranged priorities.

When we drive, bike or walk there is more at stake than getting to class on time. When we share the road, our lives are in each other’s hands. Courtesy and respect are the responsibilities of all travelers: two feet, two wheels or four. It’s when we forget this that lives are lost.

We live in a small town with too many cars and a huge biking community. We travel on streets that were not designed for the amount of traffic that we subject them to, and we all have places to go. We are forced into this daily rat race together, and together we must respect each other’s right to use the road. Ask yourself before you overtake that biker; are the few minutes you gain really worth the risk?

Respect applies on both sides of the coin. Bicycles inhabit a strange middle ground on the transportation food chain. You see them weaving through stopped cars, cutting through back allies and hopping on the sidewalk. With this flexibility comes added responsibility. Bikers need to be accountable for their own safety and realize that their recklessness endangers others. Stop signs are not optional, neither is the pedestrian right-of-way. Helmets are, but they shouldn’t be.

We are all in this together. Sharing the road is not a passive recommendation. Next time you see that diamond sign, remember, there are greater things at stake than minutes gained or lost. Using our streets is a right that should be respected and a responsibility that should be appreciated.