KALAMAZOO, Mich. (WOOD) — The state is sounding the alarm over more and more cyclists dying on Michigan roads.

Between 2020 and 2022, 103 cyclists were killed in crashes. That’s a 64% rise from the previous three-year period, which the Officer of Highway Safety Planning called an “alarming” number.

Friday morning in Wyoming, a Grand Rapids woman riding her bicycle was struck and killed by a driver.

Kalamazoo Bike Club President John Knowlton says everything changed for bike safety efforts after 2016. That June, Charles Pickett Jr., who was under the influence of several drugs, drove his pickup truck into nine cyclists, killing five and injuring four.

“We’ve certainly had a number of fatalities,” Knowlton said. “There are some ghost bikes up — those are the white bicycles that are painted and left near the site of a fatal site.”

“The goal is zero bicycle fatalities,” he continued. “If we’ve got more than zero, then we’ve got room for improvement. I’m optimistic that we’re making the right strides, but we certainly want everybody to be safe.”

With fatalities rising, this week the Kalamazoo Department of Public Safety is among eight agencies receiving state overtime grants to do extra enforcement of the state’s biking safety laws. It’s called Bicyclist Safety Enforcement Week, which starts Monday and runs through Sunday.

The state received the funding to make the campaign possible from the U.S. Department of Transportation and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. The Berrien County Sheriff’s Office, Chikaming Township Police Department, Detroit Police Department, Lansing Police Department, Macomb County Sheriff’s Office, Oakland County Sheriff’s Office and the St. Joseph Department of Public Safety are also taking part.

This week, officers will keep a closer eye on drivers, making sure they don’t make illegal turns, that they stop at a signal or stop sign and stay five feet away when passing a cyclist.

Michigan requires drivers to stay three feet away from cyclists, but local municipalities like Kalamazoo and Portage have a five-foot passing rule.

“I know it’s hard to figure out what’s three feet when you’re driving a car or what’s five feet, so I just say half a lane,” Knowlton said. “That’s easy enough to see while you’re driving.”

Police will be watching out for any drivers who block the road and interfere with the normal flow of biker traffic.

Officers will also watch cyclists, making sure they ride with traffic, use lights out at night and ride in pairs. Knowlton said it’s important for cyclists to use clear hand signals when changing lanes and avoid alternating between the sidewalk and the street.

The most important thing for cyclists to remember is to “be predictable,” Knowlton added.

“When we are going the same direction as traffic, when we’re staying as far right as practical and when we’re not riding more than two abreast, we’re generally going to be safe,” Knowlton said.

While cyclists are expected to ride in pairs and stay as far right as possible, Knowlton said that isn’t always practical.

“What’s not obvious to motorists is there are potholes in the road, there’s debris in the road, after storms we have gravel and trees and broken glass and things like that,” Knowlton said. “So the bicyclists riding two abreast might actually come out a little farther than a motorist would think is necessary, but we want to be safe and not run over glass and hit potholes and things like that.”

Kalamazoo has placed markers next to bike lanes like on North Westnedge Avenue to make sure drivers don’t cross into bikers’ territory.

“I’ve seen a number of close calls where that close pass actually causes the cyclist to startle or jerk, and it makes the situation unsafe,” Knowlton said.

The city and the county are considering long-term changes. The county road commission is also working on a safety action plan with plans to make shoulders wide and include more markers to keep drivers and cyclists safe.

“What I’d really like to encourage people is to not be afraid,” Knowlton said. “Fear creates inaction. I think there’s action we can take.”