29 October 2014 ~ 1 Comment

Four Commonsense Safety Cycling Rules

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A recently bicycle/vehicle fatality prompted me to write to the editor (the victim was a mentally disabled man on a 3-wheel trike riding in the dark, apparently on the wrong side of the road). Below is my text.

I was dismayed to see the fatal accident in the Oct 23rd issue. My heart goes out to his family and friends.

It appears that he was hit, perhaps due to to the fact that he was traveling on the wrong side of the road.

Because of this unfortunate accident, I wanted to remind readers of four points today (the first three are for cyclists):

  1. Ride on the “right” side of the road. As an avid road cyclist (or “roadie” as we are called, which is different than those that primarily ride mountain bikes on dirt trails), I often see others in Sanpete County riding on the wrong side of the road. Just this past week, while riding toward Chester, I passed another cyclist, who was riding on the left side of the road into traffic. I yelled out “wrong side of the road.” His quick response was to point downward at the road, saying, “no, this is the correct side of the road!” Just as I was passing him, a car came in the opposite direction. Because of the foolishness of the other cyclist, the driver in the auto had to “shoot the gap” between the two of us, causing anxiety to all there that day.Utah State Law defines a bicycle as any wheeled vehicle propelled by human power with wheels not less than 14 inches in diameter (Title 41, Chapter 6a). A bicycle is considered a vehicle and is generally required to operate under the same laws as motor vehicles. The law states “A Bicycle must ride with the flow or direction of traffic (§ 1105).” Many people confuse this law with the rules for pedestrians, where the recommendation is to walk against traffic. These two simple rules are ones I learned as an 9-year old Cub Scout, yet many adults disregard them. These laws are common knowledge anywhere in the U.S.A.
  2. Be as visible as possible. That is especially important during the shorter days of fall and winter. Wear bright clothing (I never wear a black or navy top). Have lights in the front and back, even during the day. Wear a reflective vest and ankle bands when at dawn, dusk or at night.
  3. Be defensive & act as if you are invisible. Recently, while cycling through a busy intersection in front of Terrel’s grocery store in Mount Pleasant, a motorist quickly crossed the highway out in the front of my friend and I. He didn’t even see us and drove across both lanes of traffic to the other side. We both slowed down abruptly, barely avoiding an accident. As cyclists, behave as if you are invisible, as many motorists simply don’t look for anything other than other vehicles. You have to be a super-defensive “driver” while on a bike.
  4. Share the Road. My last point is for motorists. Recently, many of the highways in Sanpete County received some new sets of road signs with the title “Share the Road.” The Utah State law states “Motorists may not pass within 3 feet of a moving bicycle (§ 706.5).” Please, please, do not cut cyclists too close. I worry about getting hit by the large mirrors of many trucks or school buses. Vehicles pulling wide trailers (ATV etc.) concern me. Drivers, please be aware of your total vehicle width and act accordingly!

Recently, there was a campaign going on by some of my cycling friends in Calif. (due to recent fatal accident there) to use the slogan “Change Lanes to Pass a Cyclist.” This is not state law, but is even better than the 3-foot rule. Generally speaking, most motorists in Sanpete County leave enough room and treat cyclists like a slow-moving farm implement, by swinging wide and/or slowing down. That is appreciated.

One Response to “Four Commonsense Safety Cycling Rules”

  1. John Dilsaver 10 March 2015 at 9:36 am Permalink

    I’ll add that I’m surprised to see experienced cyclists riding without a rear view mirror. I feel like I bet my life on my mirror on every ride I take. I wear a helmet mounted mirror and like the way I can scan the road behind with just a small move of my head.

    Also, I’ve been looking for a way to gently talk with (not to confront) the riders in the first group that you mention, and also to talk to them (seems like it’s often the same people) who ride on streets that are not bike friendly with bike friendly alternatives nearby.

    I really like your comment “act like you are invisible” — that’s a good mental state to have.