The number of bicyclists in Columbus continues to rise. With each bicyclist come the many benefits of creating a more bicycle-friendly community.
However, in order to achieve these benefits it is critical for bicyclists and motorists to share the road by being courteous and practicing safe bicycling and driving behavior.
It is important for bicyclists to realize that motorists may not have any experience cycling and therefore may not understand the situations that confront bicyclists in traffic.
Poor motorist behavior is often simply a response to unpredictable behavior by cyclists such as cyclist not following traffic laws. Sometimes it is due to the motorist’s ignorance of cyclists’ needs or being unaware that cyclists are safest on the streets where they are more visible, not on the sidewalk.
• Always wear a helmet. Be sure the helmet is the right size and the straps are set to keep the helmet properly positioned (level to ground when you’re standing.)
• Lock up your bike. Buy the best lock you can afford.
• Make sure your bike has reflectors. Remember that from 1/2 hour before sunset to 1/2 hour after sunrise, your bike must be equipped with a white light visible 500 feet in front of the bike and a red light or reflector visible from 500 feet on the rear of the bike. Wear bright or reflective clothing to be visible to other drivers.
• Keep your bike in good working order. Check your brakes and handle bars for loose nuts and screws. Keep your tires at the proper PSI/pressure to prevent flats and improve efficiency. If you would like to learn more about bike maintenance visit the Columbus Bicycle Co-op (www.bikeco-op.org).
• Ride with traffic. Ride on the right side of the road in the same direction as the traffic.
• Obey traffic signs and signals. Bicycles must be driven like a vehicle when using a roadway if they are to be taken seriously by motorists.
• Always use hand signals. Make sure motorists are aware of what you intend to do. Point in the direction of your turn. It is courtesy, self-protection, and the law.
• Ride consistently. Ride to the right of faster traffic in a straight line approximately a car doors width from parked cars. Ride in a straight line and never ride with more than two abreast.
• Negotiate with cars. Don’t assume a driver sees you. Use eye contact and communicate through hand signals and body language. Ensure motorists are aware of your presence before crossing a street, turning a corner, or changing lanes.
• Scan the road behind you. Learn to look over your shoulder without swerving. Stay aware: motorists may not see you, especially in their blind spot.
• Respect pedestrians. It’s the law to stop for pedestrians in a crosswalk. When passing pedestrians from behind, give them audible warning and pass with care.
• Avoid heavily congested areas.
In addition to bicyclists riding safely, motorists should also ensure they drive with caution around bicyclists and follow these safety tips when sharing the road.
• Reduce speed around bicyclists and pedestrians. Pass with care; when passing, leave 4 feet between you and the bicyclist
• Don’t tailgate, especially in bad weather and on rough roads. Watch for children on bikes; they are often unpredictable
• Scan intersections for cyclists and be courteous. Many bicyclists wear shoes that attach to their pedals, making a complete stop can be difficult. Waving a cyclist through a stopped intersection is helpful.
• Look for bicyclists when opening doors. Do not honk your horn or make loud noises in close proximity to bicyclists
To help you gain bicycling skills, Reach Healthy Communities has partnered with the League of American Bicyclists and Bicycle Indiana to offer a Traffic Skills 101 Course on Aug. 11.
This course is designed to help cyclists develop and hone their bicycle skills to ride confidently and legally in traffic or on the trail.
Laura Garrett is a biking enthusiast and a member of the Reach Healthy Communities staff. She can be contacted at 375.3994 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
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