Ah, May — blue skies, moderate temperatures, sunshine, tank tops and flip-flops. A great time to hit the road in an alternate form of transportation!
Sounds great, but before you go jogging at twilight in an awesome all-black outfit, headphones blaring the latest tunes, how about we discuss some important do’s and don’ts?
First and foremost is courtesy. All of California’s public transportation systems are just that, public. This means we should all strive to be respectful and courteous when using them. When I look at some of our most glaring safety problems, they usually stem from selfishness. For example: distracted driving, driving under the influence of alcohol and/or drugs, speeding, following too closely, etc. The root cause of all of these violations is not caring how you affect others as long as your “wants” are satisfied. Cyclists and pedestrians can also be violators when it comes to being discourteous.
Wow, I can hear the yelling from here. Before you start sending me angry emails, think about it. How often does a cyclist fail to stop at a stop sign? Or ride on the sidewalk when there is a bike lane available? What about pedestrians walking slowly across the road with their eyes on their smartphones? I am not trying to point fingers, I’m just saying we all need to be respectful of others, which means silence the distractions and focus on driving/pedaling/walking.
Now, let’s try to help everyone be safe with some of these tips:
▪ Wear bright clothing. A bicycle is required to have reflectors and, if riding during the hours of darkness, a headlamp and tail light. Fluorescent clothing goes a long way, too, making cyclists more visible to car drivers. Whether you are jogging on the roadway or walking through the neighborhood, bright clothing catches the eye. This can be especially important at dawn and dusk. I often drive to work at 6:30 in the morning and see runners at the last second, in the bike lane, dressed in all gray and black. Help drivers keep you safe and stay as visible as possible.
▪ Wear a helmet. Vehicle vs. bicycle collisions can cause serious injuries, even at slower speeds. Cyclists should wear properly fitted bicycle helmets every time they ride. In addition, the California Vehicle Code requires helmet use for cyclists under the age of 18.
▪ Be predictable and follow the rules of the road. Ride in a straight line, not swerving in and out between parked cars. Use hand signals to let other motorists, cyclists, and pedestrians know your intentions. Obey traffic signs and ride defensively.
▪ Be extra cautious at intersections. The majority of motorist-caused bicycle collisions are from left- or right-turning traffic. A bicycle is smaller than you think and can easily get missed at a busy intersection. In addition, bicycles riding against traffic, even in a bike lane, are in terrible danger. Not only are you breaking the law by riding the wrong way down the street, car drivers turning right rarely look to the right more than once because traffic is “supposed” to be coming from the left. Why? Predictability!
▪ Give at least three feet. Do not overtake or pass a cyclist too closely. California law requires a minimum distance of three feet between any part of the motor vehicle and any part of the bicycle or its operator. If the roadway does not permit this three-foot cushion due to oncoming traffic, double yellow lines, etc., then you must slow down to a reasonable and prudent speed.
▪ Beware driving, riding, and even walking while under the influence of alcohol and/or drugs. Similar to a car, riding a bicycle while DUI can get you arrested. In addition, 37% of all pedestrians killed in collisions had a blood-alcohol concentration of .08% or higher. Always have a transportation plan which does not place you or anyone else in danger.
I have said it before: one of the goals of the California Highway Patrol is to prevent loss of life, injuries, and property damage on the state’s roadways. This column is a direct step toward that goal, through the medium of information and education. Take this information and use it! Share it with friends and remember courtesy is a key to safety. If we respect and look out for others, we can all arrive safe and sound no matter what form of transportation we use.
So lace up those running shoes and I’ll see you around the block.