Bicycle Riders’ Rights and Responsibilities: Safe Cycling is No Accident!
Almost everyone can ride a bike. Most folks learn to ride as young children. For many adults cycling is an important aspect of personal recreation or as an aerobic exercise workout. An ever-increasing number of people ride a bike to work. To accomplish all this, a cyclist must use good common sense and be aware of and responsive to regulatory rules applicable to bicycles. Serious bicycle accidents—including fatal accidents—are on the upswing so it pays to be safe. For example, a motor vehicle weighs 5,0000 pounds; a bike and its rider, maybe 200 pounds. A car wins that collision every time.
A cyclist who uses good common sense stands a much better chance of surviving the road injury-free. For example:
- Ride with traffic.
- Notwithstanding the regulations cited below, I recommend riding single file, not spread across the roadway; chatting with your friends can be done at the end of the ride or during a break.
- Be visible! Wear loud colors to alert motorists to your presence; florescent yellow and green are perfect.
- Wear a helmet! Scornful reminders of the old days when “we didn’t use no stinkin’ helmet when we were kids” are not helpful when your head hits the pavement.
- Watch for defects in the road surfaces, such as breaks in the asphalt and sewer drainage grates that can catch your tire.
- Streets crossing your course of travel bear scrutiny; any more, many motorists don’t even stop at the sign but instead proceed into the intersection without regard for oncoming traffic, including cyclists.
- While perhaps not as aerobically satisfying as a country road, bike paths in public parks lead to cyclist safety and should always be considered as a safe alternative.
In addition to simple common sense, however, there are several legal regulations that apply to the use and operation of a bicycle and must be followed:
- During dawn, dusk or darkness a bike must have a front light on either the bike or the cyclist that is visible for 500 feet and a red reflector or a red light on the back.
- A bike may be equipped with a horn or a bell but not a siren; the cyclist shall shout or sound the bell or horn to warn pedestrians or other bikes of the approach of the bike.
- A bike used on the road must be equipped with a brake or brakes capable of stopping the bike within 15 feet at a speed of 10 mph.
- If operating on a highway or a highway shoulder, the bike must be equipped with a seat; a cyclist may transport another person on his bike on a seat or a carrying device attached to the bike in the manner in which the device is designed to be used.
- A cyclist may not carry a package or article that prevents him from keeping one hand on the handle bars.
- A cyclist shall operate his bike in the same manner as a motor vehicle except that if a bike lane is provided the cyclist shall use the lane.
- A cyclist using a highway lane with other vehicle types shall keep to the right.
- No more than two bikes shall be operated abreast in a single highway lane unless part of the road is designated specifically for bike usage.
- A cyclist may ride on a sidewalk unless prohibited by local ordinance or law and will have the same rights and duties as a pedestrian using the sidewalk, but shall slow down if pedestrians are using the walk nearby, shall yield to pedestrians using the walk, and not suddenly leave the sidewalk to move into vehicular traffic on the street or roadway.
- A cyclist operating on a highway may proceed after stopping for a red light and, if safe, against the red light if the traffic signal fails to detect his presence.
The forgoing are some of the many common sense and regulatory provisions that provide to help keep bike riding a safe and fun endeavor.