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The Importance of Cyclists Following the Rules of the Road
Cycling has many lifelong benefits
I have an uncle that has been involved in cycling in one form or another since he was about 7 years old. It started with BMX, evolved into street races, mountain bikes, and eventually into working for Trek Bicycle in Waterloo, Wisconsin. Most of my life growing up, he talked about the importance of sharing the road and giving cyclists plenty of room, while maintaining a safe traffic pattern. So I've always watched out for cyclists since I started driving. I think most people do.
Now that I'm older, nothing has changed regarding this. Our city has embraced our large cycling community who is heavily involved in RAGBRAI (see link below). The city has spent money and time making sure that cyclists in our downtown area feel safe and comfortable riding through town. We have several bike trails, nature trails and outdoor mountain biking trails to provide a safe, off-road place for cyclists.
- RAGBRAI | The Register's Annual Great Bicycle Ride Across Iowa
In the beginning, when a few friends got together for a casual bike ride across Iowa in 1973, no one imagined that a tradition would be born, let alone that it would become the longest, largest and oldest bicycle touring event in the world.
New bike lanes in downtown Cedar Rapids
When Sharing the Road is Taken Advantage Of
With all of the improvements that our city is making to make downtown and arterial streets safer for cyclists, we still have an over-abundance of people who don't obey the rules and make the streets unsafe for themselves AND other motorists.
To name just a few of the rules I've seen broken by cyclists, I've seen stop signs being run, red lights being run, swerving between cars, inappropriate use of the green bike lanes, riding on the sidewalks when bike lanes are clearly marked, among others. In these cases, cyclists are endangering their own lives as well as motorists who may need to brake quickly or swerve to miss them. What happens then?
Your Two Cents
Thinking as a driver, how often have you had to quickly change your traffic path to avoid cyclists clearly breaking traffic laws?
Bicyclists have the same rights and duties as the operators of vehicles, except provisions that have no application.— Iowa Bicycle Coalition
Green Bike Lanes
Accidents are not always the vehicle driver's fault
In preparing for this article, I did some looking into stats regarding recent accidents and fatalities regarding cyclists with and without motor vehicle involvement.
One site I looked at, Iowa Bicycle Coalition, cited several instances of fatalities where the cyclist ran a stop sign, was in the center of the roadway, or was not wearing reflective clothing, lights or other identifying safety features after dark. In the latter of the cases, the driver of the vehicle did not see the cyclist until the headlights registered movement. At that point, it was to late to avoid the cyclist.
In other cases, there has been alcohol involved. The NHTSA cites that in 2013, in 24% of pedalcyclist fatalities, the cyclists had BACs of .01 g/dL or higher and 20% had BACs of .08 g/ dL or higher. This means that these cyclists didn't think that drunk driving rules applied to them, or they thought that everyone else would watch out for them. Just as getting behind the wheel or your car is dangerous, so is cycling while intoxicated.
What this all comes down to is that there are a large population of cyclists that do not correctly follow the traffic rules for which they are responsible. What happens is that cyclists are much more likely to lose in a contest between a bicycle and a motor vehicle.
For more information on Rules and Data
"Bicyclists are considered vehicle operators; they are required to obey the same rules of the road as other vehicle operators, including obeying traffic signs, signals, and lane markings. When cycling in the street, cyclists must ride in the same direction as traffic."
How do we make this better?
There are a variety of ways that cyclists can reduce the amount of injuries and fatalities due to accidents with motor vehicles. While not all accidents are due to cyclists not following laws and common sense rules of thumb, thinking before jumping on the bike can help to reduce those numbers.
If you're not sure about a rule or law involving your bicycle, check out some of the helpful links above. They outline Iowa's laws regarding bicycle safety and regulations. In the meantime, here are some helpful hints to keep you safe.
- Always wear your helmet. They are designed to take the impact in the event of a crash. Otherwise your head will absorb all of it.
- Wear light-colored, reflective clothing while riding at dusk. Lights or reflectors should always be worn in the dark.
- NEVER, ever drink before cycling. This impairs balance, reaction time and vision, among other things. The more you drink, the higher your risk for accident or crash.
- Stay in the bike lanes on your busier streets. If no bike lanes are present, stay to the right with the flow of traffic. Always observe bike lane rules. Look them up if you don't know them
- Observe the same traffic laws as if you were driving. If you wouldn't run a red light or stop sign in your car, don't do it on your bike. Learn hand signals for turning as well.
Every little bit matters. Observing the rules of the road saves your life, and keeps you around to enjoy another beautiful day of cycling.