Friday, July 18, 2008

Sharing the Road

My recently renewed interest in bike riding can mostly be attributed to the rising gas prices. I calculated that each 7 mile round trip to the YMCA costs me about a dollar in gas money. Doesn't seem like a lot, but if I go 3 times a week, it slowly adds up. Having the money to put dinner on the table is certainly not determined by whether or not I drive or bike to the gym, but I like to see it as having a small positive impact on my health and my wallet.

Picture taken by Sister - Her bike on a local bike trail

It started with the gym, but now I'll ride to the grocery store, the bead shop, and meet my husband for lunch at Subway. I'm finding myself encountering several other bike riders on my little excursions as well. I came across a disturbing article on today, which points out the increased number of car/bike accidents now that more people are fueling their commute with leg power as opposed to gasoline.

I personally had to re-familiarize myself with New York's rules of the road when I began riding my bike around town. I'm glad I did for my own safety as a rider, as well as for the bikers that I encounter when driving. What many bikers don't realize is that they are supposed to be following the same traffic laws that the automobile drivers have, including stopping at a stop sign and yielding to pedestrians. On the flip side, drivers are often not familiar with the proper hand signals that bicyclists use, or that bike riders are allowed to do things like enter traffic to make a left hand turn. Both drivers and bicyclists need to be aware of their state laws for the safety of everyone - now more than ever.

Here are just a few tips that drivers and bicyclists should be aware of:
  • You must ride your bike with traffic so that drivers can better predict your actions.
  • Bicyclists are supposed to obey the traffic signs and lights that automobile drivers do.
  • If a bike lane is provided, the bicyclist is to ride in it, unless debris or unsafe obstacles are in the way.
  • Bikers can ride on the sidewalk but must yield to pedestrians.
  • Riding a bike in the dark requires a head light and tale light.
  • The hand signal for a right hand turn is an upward bend at the left elbow, making a right angle with the fist towards the sky
  • The hand signal for a left hand turn is the left arm straight out to the left. If the bicyclist can do so safely, they then move into the right lane of traffic (after and during the proper signal) to make their left turn when safe to do so. Another option is to dismount the bike and cross the street when safe as pedestrians do.
  • The signal for stopping is similar to the right turn, only the fist is toward the ground, with downward bend at the left elbow.
  • If the bicyclist chooses to listen to an audio device, like an MP3 player, only one ear piece may be used while riding, leaving the other ear available to safely listen for oncoming traffic and so on - or at least that's a law in New York.
Here are some websites that have some useful information. Be sure to find out what the laws in your state are!

New York Bicycling Coalition

The Police Note Book: University of Oklahoma Police Department Bike Safety
New York State Department of Transportation
New York Bikes!

1 comment:

woolies said...

I wish I could post these laws on my car, because apparently NOBODY in Tucson knows these laws. They all are common sense - it amazes me when I encounter bicyclists riding toward me, on my side of the road.
These were always the rules when I rode, and what I taught my kids. Yay!