Rules of road for bicyclists proposed
Generally, this blog shies away from presenting "tips" from commercial interests. They often tend to be more self-serving than useful. But this list, from Genesis Bikes, seems useful, timely and well worth sharing -- especially in view of the impressive amount of unsafe bicycling observed in Maryland.
Warning: There may be some snarky comments inserted by the blog's editor, for which Genesis is not to blame.
We’re not going to pedal around the subject. Bicycle safety equipment protects a rider, but unfortunately – no amount of gear can adequately prevent a dangerous accident. The best way to avoid injuries while commuting on a bike is to steer those handlebars defensively.
Genesis – a top-selling line of bicycles, featuring high-quality designs, performance, and safety components at affordable prices – offers these Ten Rules of the Road to keep bike riders safe:
1. Always wear a helmet.
COMMENT: This is a no-brainer in a quasi-literal sense of the term. There is no such thing as a safe bicyclist without a helmet. Any bicyclist I see on the road without one immediately puts me on the same idiot alert that goes off when I see a tailgater. No, wearing a helmet while bicycling is not the law -- but it should be.
2. Obey traffic signs and signals.
COMMENT: That's the law. In my view common sense should allow bicyclists to treat stop signs as yield signs once they've slowed to watch for oncoming traffic. (Unlike drivers, bicyclists lose momentum with each stop that has to be recovered through muscle power. They also can stop quicker.) With stoplights, common sense calls for a full stop in all cases. Bicycles taking off a little early, once the traffic in both crossing directions has cleared completely, might be beneficial for both motorists and bicyclists, though I doubt most drivers will be rational on that point.
3. Visibility: Wear Light or bright-colored clothing. Make sure you have a clear front reflector, a red rear reflector that’s visible from 100-600-feet, wheel-mounted side reflectors, reflector pedals, and a front light that’s visible for at least 500-feet if you plan to ride at night.
COMMENT: This is such an important and frequently violated rule. There are few things scarier for a driver than coming up upon a bicyclist dressed entirely in dark clothes at dusk along a road that compels lane-sharing. I'd empower the cops to impound bicycles that are being ridden after dark without reflectors until proper equipment is installed.
4. Install a horn or bell that can be heard up to 100-feet.
COMMENT: Any bicyclist who relies on horns or bells for safety from motor vehicles is delusional. Far too many drivers have the radio blaring and/or a cell phone glued to their ears. But horns and bells are essential for bicyclists sharing trails with pedestrians.
5. Ride in the right-most lane that goes with the direction or flow of traffic. Do not ride on the sidewalk. Be sure to allow yourself room to maneuver around roadway hazards.
6. Signal your moves.
• Right Turn: Raise your left arm horizontally with your elbow bent 90 degrees vertically.
• Left Turn: Raise your left arm horizontally with your elbow fully extended.
• Stop or Sudden Decrease in Speed: Extend your left arm at a 45-degree angle with the palm of your hand facing rearward.
7. Avoid Getting Doored: Be on the lookout for passengers exiting cars. Avoid the right side of any stopped car, especially if it’s near the curb. Never swerve between parked cars and ride at least three feet from parked cars.
COMMENT: The best advice in this list. Bicyclists need to take responsibility for avoiding getting doored because most drivers simply will never change. It's bicyclists who have more to lose in these accidents.
8. Re-think music players. It’s more important to hear what’s going around you when you’re biking than when you’re driving a car. Avoid wearing ear plugs or ear phones in both ears.
COMMENT: Don't just re-think. Don't use them.
9. Put the mobile phone on hold. When you’re mixing with car traffic, the fewer distractions the better. Texting or talking on a cell phone increases your risk of an accident. You’ll want both hands free in case you have to suddenly brake.
COMMENT: It's hard to believe this advice is necessary, but it is.
10. Avoid busy streets. One of the biggest mistakes people make when they start bicycling is taking the exact same routes they used while driving. Take advantage of bike paths that allow you to cross busy streets rather than travel on them.
COMMENT: Good advice, but drivers are reminded that it's up to bicyclists to make the judgment whether a busy but legal street is the better route. For example, I can't blame someone who uses busy St. Paul St. rather than less-busy Guilford Avenue if in their judgment Guilford is unsafe at certain hours. Just so the bicyclist doesn't choose to use Calvert or Charles in the wrong direction.