It seems we are reading about cycling accidents more often these days. This article is one in a series to help educate the community on cycling, laws, safety, and how to take action. The tag ‘share the road’ was introduced because cars and bikes have equal right to be on the road. Many people think that if there is a sidewalk or path that bikes should be there. Of course until they are walking on the sidewalk and realize the potential issues. Too many drivers think that cyclists are an annoyance and in their way. If we change the thinking to one less car on the road means less traffic, less pollution, and potentially a quicker commute then everyone wins.
To get started lets review the rules of the road. Full laws can be found at http://www.safeny.ny.gov/bike-vt.htm
From the NY Bicycling Coalition site:
- Bicyclists must ride with traffic and thus travel in the same direction as motor vehicles.
- Bicyclists may travel side-by-side on the road, but must ride in single-file when other vehicles need to pass.
- Every person riding a bicycle or skating or gliding on in-line skates upon a roadway shall be granted all of the rights and shall be subject to all of the duties applicable to the driver of a vehicle .
- If there is a bicycle lane in the roadway, the bicyclist must use it except to avoid a hazard or to turn left. If there is a separate parallel path, the bicyclist may use either the path or roadway.
- Bicyclists must signal to turn on a roadway, a bike lane or bike path.
- Bicycling is not allowed on interstate highways and expressways. Local jurisdictions can prohibit bicycles elsewhere, for example parkways or sidewalks.
- Helmets must be worn by those under 14 years old. Localities may have additional requirements for those over 14.
- Bicycles must be properly equipped with workable brakes, a bell or horn, reflectors and, if driven at night, a headlight and taillight.
- A bicyclist cannot wear more than one earphone when listening to a radio or other audio device.
- A bicyclist may not grab onto or otherwise attach to a moving motor vehicle.
- A bicycle cannot carry more people than the number it was designed to carry. The law also calls for motorists to exercise “due care” to avoid collision with bicyclists. Bicycle accidents involving death or serious injury have to be reported within ten days.
In a battle between a 2 ton car and a less than 20 pound bike the car wins. So what are we to do? It is incumbent on both cyclists and motorists to know the rules of the road, to have patience and to always stay aware. Are there bad cyclists out there? Yes. Are there cyclists who break the law? Yes, but probably some unknowingly. Are there bad motorists out there? Yes. Are there motorists who break the law? Yes. Are motorists who antagonize and harass cyclists? Yes. Let’s all become activists for safer roads.
What do cyclists need to do?
- Know the law and obey it. Just because you are on a bike does not mean you can ride with reckless abandonment. Everyone has a responsibility to keep the roads safe.
- Be a defensive rider. Pay attention to your surrounding and don’t assume cars see you or will act according to the law. In this day and age distracted driving is all to common. Better to ride thinking no one sees you.
- Seek routes with three feet. Find the roads with wide shoulders and bike lanes.
- Wear a helmet regardless of the law in your state. Every cyclist should wear a helmet. In almost every accident the head makes contact with the ground.Make eye contact with drivers. It won’t completely prevent an accident (I swore the kid who hit me had to have seen me looking at him as I could see his eyes easily), but that personal connection might help.
- Educate your fellow riders and make sure they follow the rules of the road.
- Keep your eyes on the road. No texting or talking on the phone.
- Be visible during the day and at night. Wear the bright cycling gear during the day. Make sure you have reflectors and lights on the front and back of your bike when riding in low light or at night.
What do drivers need to do?
- Wait until it is safe to pass a bicycle and refraining from tailgating.
- Give cyclists the right of way when the situation calls for it.
- Allow extra time for cyclists to go through intersections.
- Recognize road hazards that may be dangerous for cyclists and giving cyclists the necessary space to deal with them. In conditions where there is not enough room for a cyclist to ride to the right, they are allowed to ride closer to the lane of traffic, and sometimes even in the lane of traffic.
- Stay focused on the road - distracted driving is a cause of many accidents.
- Realize that a cyclist has a right to use the road - the same right you do as a driver of a car.
- Be patient!!
Cyclists really appreciate when you don’t honk unnecessarily, when you give room when passing, and when you smile. You can make a cyclist’s day by just being patient!
More often now when drivers are in the wrong they are being charged. A woman in Florida was sentenced to 20 years in prison for the death of a cyclist she hit and then left. Next up in this series: accidents.