Editorial - Follow these rules for safe cyclingThere are few better ways to enjoy the outdoors and get good exercise than bicycling.
There are few better ways to enjoy the outdoors and get good exercise than bicycling.
Whether it’s a leisurely ride through the countryside or a fast-paced pedal that’s part of a fitness regimen, bicycling can fill you with a sense of satisfaction and a renewed appreciation of nature.
But there’s danger on the roads, too.
Statistics from the Department of Public Safety show that 10 bicyclists lost their lives on Minnesota roads in 2009, a drop from 13 in 2008, but still above the average death count over the last decade. Safety officials expect a continued surge of bicyclists in 2010 and urge caution for those who may be new to bicycle commuting.
Douglas County area is fortunate to have bicycle routes throughout the lakes area – on the Central Lakes Trail as well as designated bike lanes along some roadways. The widening of County Road 42 last summer has opened up a new bicycle route that will undoubtedly see some heavy use in the next few months. Geneva Road, between McKay and Birch Avenue, will also be widened this summer to accommodate bicyclists. Drivers should be prepared to see more bicycles in those areas.
All it takes is a second of inattention – a sudden veering, a brief lapse in judgment of time or distance – to cause a crash. And it cuts both ways, whether you’re on two wheels or four.
“Motorists need to be ready as more bicyclists join traffic, and bike riders need to help drivers by heeding traffic and road rules, and wearing bright, reflective gear and helmets,” said Cheri Marti, director of DPS Office of Traffic Safety.
Marti added that bike commuters need to take the time to plan safe routes, use paths when possible, and follow the rules of the road, including obeying traffic signals.
Each year, an average of eight bicyclists are killed and more than 950 are injured in crashes with vehicles, according to DPS. Most bicycle crashes occur during afternoon rush hours. People younger than 25 represent more than half of all bicyclists injured annually.
“Bicycles have a right to be on every road, except where specifically prohibited, and that means following the rules of the road and being respectful of other traffic,” said Susan Koschak, Statewide Non-Motorized Advisory Committee chairperson. “As cyclists, we have the responsibility to be visible, which means wearing clothing that contrasts with the background and using appropriate lights when it is dark.”
The major contributing factor in bicyclist-motorist crashes is failure to yield right-of-way, for which both bicyclists and drivers are at fault. For bicyclists, another crash factor is disregard for traffic control devices. Crash factors for motorists include failing to watch for and see bicyclists, and driving inattentively.
DPS and MnDOT officials say that the law is clear: Bicyclists and motorists share responsibility. They offered eight “rules of the road” for improving bicycle safety:
1. Bicyclists may ride on all Minnesota roads, except where restricted – such as interstates.
2. Bicyclists should ride on the road, and must ride in the same direction as traffic.
3. Motorists must at all times maintain a three-foot clearance when passing a bicyclist.
4. Bicyclists must obey all traffic control signs and signals, just as motorists.
5. Motorists and bicyclists must yield the right of way to each other.
6. Bicyclists must signal their turns and should ride in a predictable manner.
7. Bicyclists must use a headlight and rear reflectors when it’s dark.
8. Bicyclists should always wear helmets and bright reflective gear.
This spring and summer, if you can manage it, try to get in a few more bike rides. Burn off some extra stress and calories, take in the beautiful scenery of the lakes area and take advantage of the trails and bike lanes. Just remember the eight rules and enjoy the ride.
Echo Press editorials are the position of the newspaper’s editorial board, which includes Jody Hanson, publisher; Al Edenloff, editor; and news reporter Celeste Beam.