By Ray Nutkis
Our May club meeting focused on bicycle safety which included two bicycle safety experts from the New Jersey AAA. The main speaker was Ron Esposito, a former police officer and currently a bicycle safety spokesperson for the AAA.
Ron’s main message was that cyclists are obligated to follow the “rules of the road,” be courteous, and always exercise common road sense. Most of what Ron conveyed was viable.
The one area that I have difficulty rationalizing is his assertion that cyclist have the same rights and traffic law obligations as motorist. Cars, as we know, are massive, and we are a fraction of the size and weight of a motor vehicle. A small Fiat weighs 1,141 pounds and a large full size SUV Chevy Tahoe weighs 5,683 pounds.
The combined weight of my body mass and my road cycle is no more than 185 pounds. It is my conclusion that cyclists are obligated to be responsible for their safety, to always be courteous to pedestrians and motorists, and to communicate the cyclist’s intentions to motorists by hand signals and eye contact. It is essential that your road behavior and intentions are always predictable to others who share the road.
Cyclist should follow the rules of the road when it insures the cyclist’s safety. There may be situations when you may have to ride on the sidewalk, not line up behind vehicles at a traffic light due to vehicle congestion, or dismount from your bike and become a pedestrian in order to use a cross walk. These types of situations are based on circumstances that you will evaluate based on your safety comfort level.
I am not an expert on bicycle safety. Almost everything I know about bicycle safety I learned from “on the road training,” from my fellow cyclists, and applying practical common road sense and intuition. My experience indicates that this is how most of us learn to be safe and stay out of trouble. As a member of the BTCNJ Bicycle Safety Committee, I have a platform to disseminate safety information. The best way to do this is to become an aggregator of safety source material. The remaining focus of this article is on lane changes and traffic intersections.
I encourage you to use this link http://bikeleague.org/content/ intersection-positioning which will connect to the League of American Bicyclist website to view a short and excellent video titled “Intersection Position.” This video covers turning lanes at traffic intersections. The AAA granted permission to copy the text below from the “AAA Guide to A Safe Bike Ride.” The guide is posted on the BTCNJ web site and at this link http://goo.gl/XcmJiL Please follow the suggested “rules of the road” and always use your common road sense.
AAA’s Guide to a Safe Bike Ride
When approaching an intersection, use the rightmost lane that serves your destination. If the right lanes become a right-turn only lane, bicyclists intending to go straight through the intersection should move left into the straight through lane.
Use turn signals. Communicate! Communicate! Communicate! The use of signals by both motorists and cyclists is critical. When preparing to make a turn, a bicyclist should:
‣ Scan to the front, sides and behind to see what traffic is present;
‣ Use the appropriate hand signal, and try to make eye contact with drivers of vehicles that may be a risk while completing the turn;
‣ Scan again to be sure it is safe to make a turn; then
‣ Make the turn safely.
These signals will make a bicyclist’s intentions clear to all surrounding motorists. Yield. In many situations, cyclists must yield. Some examples are as follows:
‣ When a yield sign is present;
‣ When entering or crossing a major road;
‣ When an emergency vehicle approaches;
‣ When changing lanes;
‣ When making a turn; or
‣ When pedestrians are present.
Bicyclists can communicate with motorists in other ways. They can divide the travel portion into thirds and use each third to convey a different message:
Turning left? Taking the left one-third of the lane can indicate that.
Going straight? Moving toward the center one-third of the lane can send that signal.
Turning right? Moving to the right one-third of the lane can alert others of the intent to turn right