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Amgen Tour Of California Pits Bicycles Vs. Cars

SAN FRANCISCO (CBS) -- The Amgen tour of California rolls out of San Francisco to the finish line in Santa Rosa Sunday. The route through lush wine country is popular year round. But not everyone's happy about all the bicycle traffic. Close encounters with drivers are becoming common and incidents of road rage are on the rise.

Gary Helfrick of the Bicycle Coalition keeps a database of harassment incidents that happen in Sonoma County.

"About half the incidents are throwing something out of your car or truck, the most common object is a beer bottle or can," said Helfrick.

There are more other serious incidents like buzzing a line of bicyclists and if one person of the group loses control it can cause a great number of injuries.

PHOTOS: Amgen Tour & An Accident

The turning point in Sonoma County was when an 82-year-old resident was convicted of attempted murder last year for chasing a bicyclist off the road onto a golf course and running him over.

This case encouraged Sonoma County Supervisor Shilee Zane to take action with a new Anti-Harassment Law to protect Cyclists.

"If a cyclist and a car get into an accident, the car is going to win every single time," said Zane, "So do they need extra protection? Are they vulnerable users? Absolutely."

This ordinance makes Sonoma County the first in the nation that forbids motorists from physically assaulting or threatening to physically assault bicyclists or pedestrians.

"The bar is a much higher bar. This will give them civil recourse. We have a lot of aggressive drivers today we have a lot of distracted drivers. The bottom line is public health and safety and that is what this ordinance is about," said Zane.

Local commuters like John Daniels are not happy about this ordinance.

Daniels said, "It's just really dangerous."

The biggest problem to him is bicyclists who ride parallel on narrow winding roads.

"I come around the corner at 55mph and I've got to go into oncoming traffic to avoid hitting the cyclist, or I have to slam on my brakes," said Daniels.

KPIX went on a ride-along with Daniels and saw what he was talking about, cyclists in the bike lane, outside the bike lane, and in the car lane.

It turns out on most Sonoma County roads a white line marks a shoulder, not a bike lane. But the vehicle code does require bicyclists to ride as close as practicable to the edge of the roadway.

Helfrich does admit just like drivers that some bicyclists also behave badly.

Helfrich said if a conflict does arise, since cyclists have the most to lose they should turn the other check and let the people in the car go by and they have a great ride.

Sonoma county has passed the ordinance. Now 9 cities in the county are taking up the issue. Sebastopol recently passed an even stricter ordinance that requires cars to stay at least three feet away from cyclists. But Windsor, the town that John Daniels comes from, has voted down a similar measure.

(Copyright 2013 by CBS San Francisco. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.)

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