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Friday, December 2, 2011

Bike-car disputes covered by laws

Here is a great "My Turn" column from today's CdA Press from Kathleen Kelly. Thanks Kathleen for taking the time to educate the public!


I've been hearing quite a few stories lately about how bicyclists are being assaulted both verbally and physically. This is quite unfortunate, yet I believe it to be because the public doesn't realize there are laws pertaining to the rules of the road and bicyclists. These rules are different when it comes to cars and bikes which is something I didn't know until I started riding and researched the law myself. For instance: I've been yelled at while riding my bike on the edge of the road to and from Higgens Point. You see, if I'm traveling 16 mph or over, I'm not allowed on the Centennial Trail. Much like the road speed limit, the trail also has a speed limit and it's in place to keep all users safe.

Someone will usually yell for me to "get on the sidewalk" when I ride downtown. Most Cd'A downtown sidewalks are posted with signs telling me the opposite. Also, if I'm not hugging the white line at the moment, it usually means there are rocks and/or debris that I am avoiding. Give me a minute and I will gladly move back over because I know I'm on the losing end of a collision between us. Additional info ... A bicyclist legally does not have to stop at a stop sign. Idaho State Code 49-720(1) states "A person operating a bicycle or human-powered vehicle approaching a stop sign shall slow down and, if required for safety, stop before entering the intersection. After slowing to a reasonable speed or stopping, the person shall yield the right-of-way to any vehicle in the intersection or approaching on another highway so closely as to constitute an immediate hazard during the time the person is moving across or within the intersection or junction of highways, except that a person after slowing to a reasonable speed and yielding the right-of-way if required, may cautiously make a turn or proceed through the intersection without stopping. "Now at a "steady red traffic control light shall stop before entering the intersection and shall yield to all other traffic. Once the person has yielded, he may proceed through the steady red light with caution. Provided however, that a person after slowing to a reasonable speed and yielding the right-of-way if required, may cautiously make a right-hand turn. A left-hand turn onto a one-way highway may be made on a red light after stopping and yielding to other traffic." Code 49-720(2) Once again, this is Idaho Code.

Unfortunately, I have seen bicyclists roll through stoplights when they shouldn't. It's those that give the rest of us a bad name as well as increasing the confusion the non-bicyclist may feel. There are a few that push the envelope, but don't hold that against (what I hope) is the majority that tries to adhere to the law. Coming from the other perspective, if you have no interest in road bikes, it must be hard to understand why you should have to put up with delays because you can't get around a cyclist in a timely manner. Realizing that we too have a right to be out there is key. There is actually a national campaign running called "Share the Road." It is designed to educate everyone on the "rules of the road" and how we can safely co-exist. It addresses a multitude of questions regarding safe cycling in a community.

This is especially timely and informative since the majority of our roads do not have special bike lanes yet. We hope that one day we do have a separate lane to ride in, which would lessen conflict and confusion. Until that day ... you should know that for some people, riding a bike is a hobby or a passion or a ride to school. For others, it's their transportation to work to feed their families; the same families that rely on them to make it home safely after work. Looking ahead ... as gas prices keep rising, YOU TOO might find yourself riding on two wheels instead of four. The wave of alternative transportation is coming, it's just a matter of time. Let's not be the last to jump on board.

Lastly, although the numbers on the road decrease dramatically during the colder months, there are still those that venture out with fat tires on their bikes for their commute to work or a good workout. It's more dangerous for us all this time of year as our ability to stop quickly dramatically decreases, increasing our risk for more car vs. car and/or car vs. bike/pedestrian incidents. So let's work hard to peacefully and safely co-exist and remember the ' rules of the road. I hope this helps us all.

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