Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Bicyclists & Motorists - Rules of the Road

When was the last time you drove your car on the sidewalk? Do you ever drive on the left side of the road or drive at night without headlights? Hopefully, you answered “never, no, and no.” What about when you’re riding a bike? Cyclists have the same rights and responsibilities as motorists. If you’re one of the 900,000 cyclists in Maine (MaineDOT) then you know that riding PREDICTABLY, which means obeying all vehicle traffic laws, is one of your best strategies to prevent crashes. Instead of seatbelts, cyclists wear helmets. How many weeks of allowance would your “criminal” child have to save to pay the $25 ticket for violating Maine’s youth helmet law?  Prevent injury (and tickets!) by learning Maine’s Rules of the Road for bicyclists and motorists.
Rules for Bicyclist
1.       Maintain and regularly inspect your equipment. Secure any loads tightly.
2.       Wear a helmet correctly.  Helmets are required by law for anyone under 16.
3.       Be visible and predictable wearing bright colors and plan ahead.
4.       Ride with traffic on the right side and do not pass motorists on the right.
5.       Watch for potential hazards by scanning 100 feet ahead to avoid hazards.
6.       Signal all turns and remember to look back before you make a lane change or turn.
7.       Be prepared for conditions by carrying supplies, proper clothing and plenty of water.
8.       Obey all traffic laws by riding with traffic and obeying all stop signs and traffic lights.
9.       Ride single file in traffic and notify other bicyclists of approaching cars.
10.   Warn others when approaching and yield to pedestrians.
11.   Always ride with lights at night both headlight and tail lights with reflective clothing.

As motorists, we must respect the rights of other road users including bicyclists. Check out these rules and suggestions for motorists.

Rules for Motorists
1.       Reduce your speed when passing bicyclists.
2.       Don't blast your horn when approaching bicyclists.
3.       When a road becomes too narrow for cars and bikes to ride safely side by side, bicycles should ride in or near the center of the lane.
4.       Recognize situations and obstacles which may be hazardous to bicyclists and give them adequate space to maneuver.
5.       Do NOT pass bicyclists if oncoming traffic is near and wait as you would with any slow-moving vehicle.
6.       In bad weather give bicyclist extra trailing and passing room.
7.       When uncertain in any situation slow down until it's safe to pass.
8.       Give at least three feet of passing space between the right side of your vehicle and a bicyclist.
9.       After passing a bicyclist on your right, check over your shoulder to make sure you have allowed enough room before moving over.
10.   Do not turn in front of bicyclists unless you can do so safely.
11.   When turning left at an intersection, yield to oncoming bicyclists just as you would yield to oncoming motorists.
12.   Before opening your car door, look for bicyclists who may be approaching.
13.   Children on bicycles are often unpredictable - expect the unexpected.

                When we all drive and bicycle safely and are considerate of others it is easy to Share the Road!

Accident Prone? Try these tips!

“Broken pavement!”

Cyclists don’t mince words. Conversation among riders often takes the form of one word warnings that communicate approaching road and traffic hazards.  In an effort to prevent falls and ultimately avoid crashes, pedestrians often hear a song of warnings when a group of cyclists ride by. This is especially true in the springtime, as the roads are recouping from winter’s assault. Listen closely to cyclists as they pass, and you should hear warnings of potholes, grates, manhole covers, loose gravel or dirt, railroad tracks, and cracks in the pavement.  Given the many obstacles of road cycling, how do you prepare for a fall-free ride?

The first step toward a fall-free ride is to be aware of potential road and traffic hazards, which vary depending on the season, weather patterns, and time of day. Be aware of wind gusts as you cross bridges or as a large truck passes by. Railroad tracks, storm grates, steel plates, and painted road lines are especially slippery when wet. Cross railroad tracks perpendicular (at right angle) to the tracks.  In the spring after the roads have heaved many potholes, uneven surfaces, and open cracks appear - look ahead to prepare to avoid them and remember to look behind for automobiles planning to overtake you.  Riding predictably is riding safely. Dodging road hazards startles automobile drivers.

 Andrew Burnell, Program/Volunteer Director at the Community Bicycle Center (CBC), says that kids often come into CBC with “scraped knees and hands due to the sandy shoulders, partially paved roads, and long cracks.” Burnell adds that another danger of springtime riding is that “many kids and adults are re-learning the cycling skills that they’ve forgotten during the winter. For example, many riders forget that they should just coast to a stop if they accidently go into a soft shoulder or into an uneven lip in the pavement. A lot of kids try to quickly turn their wheel back onto the road, which ends up catching and throwing the bike and rider down to the pavement.” 

                The second step is to make sure your clothing isn’t working against you. Mitigate your risk of falling due to clothing malfunction by wearing light, bright, and tight clothing. If you’re thinking that a root canal sounds more appealing to you or your teenager than wearing high-vis spandex in public, then consider using a leg strap or rubber band to keep your pants from getting caught in the chain. Many commuters simply roll up the right leg of their pants when riding. They also tuck in their shirt to keep it from catching on the back of the bike seat. You are dressed for danger if your shoes have long laces and sloppy bows, which turn into tentacles when riding. Laces wrap around unsuspecting crank arms and pedals, lurching riders off their bikes. Shoelaces should be double knotted, tucked under the shoe tongues, or even duct taped to your shoes. 

                The third step is to check the bicycle before you ride. Learn how to perform an “ABC Quick Check,” and get in the habit doing it before you ride. Falls constitute 50 percent of all bicycle crashes. Lower your chance of falling by following the steps outlined above for a safer ride. 

Dog - Bicycle Accidents

Visualize bicycling on a spring day through your neighborhood or on a quiet rural Maine road. The sun is warming your back, and the sweet scents of lilacs are wafting up your nostrils. You’re enjoying the soft notes of songbirds when- WOOF WOOF WOOF!! You’ve picked up a canine companion!

 What do you do?

Do you channel your inner soccer player and try to kick an aggressive dog? Do you yell and scream to intimidate your four-legged follower? Hint: there are more effective strategies, below. According to the League of American Cyclists 8% of all bicycle accidents occur between dogs and bicycles. So what should you really do when you encounter a dog while cycling? Below are some tips to help you and your children avoid becoming one of the 4.7 million people bitten by a dog, annually. Remember, even older cyclists can learn new tricks! 

The University of Davis Veterinary Medicine program recommends that you override the instinct of “flight” if the dog is chasing you. Stop and dismount. Create a barrier between you and the pooch by using your bicycle and then slowly back away, facing the animal until you lose its attention. Despite sometimes downright wacky cycling gear, you are not that interesting. The dog will be motivated to move on.

UC Davis also suggests avoiding eye contact with the animal and speaking in a low, firm voice. If you fall or are knocked down, curl into a ball and use your hands and arms to protect your face, neck and head. Thank goodness you were wearing that helmet! Canine expert, Ken Kiefer, encourages individuals to ignore the animal whenever possible. If the dog gets closer, he adheres to pup protocol described by UC Davis: talking to the animal in a calm tone. Learn more about why and how dogs chase bikes, ways they attack, and effective methods for repelling attacks by reading his web-based article, “Coping with Dogs.”

Do not try kicking the dog unless you are prepared to fall off your bike and possibly treat an ankle wound. Other questionable suggestions include picking up a stick, screaming at the dog, and trying to chase it back onto its owner’s property. If you have good balance, one “tried and true” strategy I’ve used over the years is grabbing my water bottle and spraying the dog in its face.  If you can’t modify your bike route for the future, consider having a calm conversation with the dog’s owner after the encounter.