Over the years, one of the biggest battles for cyclists has been becoming accepted as a legitimate part of traffic in a car-centric world. Cyclists have made several gains in their efforts to become more accepted in city, state and federal transportation plans, but there still is a long way to go.
That’s why this recent news story from KFSK-FM public radio in Petersburg was disheartening (click link for audio). Petersburg police are asking bike riders to obey traffic signs, follow the rules of the road and be more careful around pedestrians and motorists this summer. The department and the city’s public safety advisory board have both been fielding complaints about bikers riding on sidewalks and on the wrong side of the road, among other problems. KFSK news reporter Joe Viechnicki rode his bike down to the police department Monday (June 24), crashing once along the way, and spoke to acting chief Jim Agner about bike safety.
These concerns about cyclists obeying the rules of the road aren’t limited to Petersburg. Even in Sitka, Alaska’s first Bicycle Friendly Community, there have been education efforts designed to remind cyclists to ride on the right side of the road, obey stop signs, stay off of sidewalks and follow other basic safety rules. The Sitka Bicycle Friendly Community Coalition’s education campaign included a two-sided flier (see two PDF files posted below) inserted into the Daily Sitka Sentinel reminding people there are Rules of the Road for Motorists (one side) and Rules of the Road for Cyclists (other side). There also were radio PSAs broadcast on Sitka stations KCAW-FM and KIFW-AM (scroll down on link for audio clips). The Bicycle Commuters of Anchorage is another organization that has launched a safety campaign that includes safety courses for commuters.
Just as we ask for motorists to respect our rights to ride our bikes in the road, we also must respect motorized traffic by riding in a safe, sensible manner. This includes knowing the local and state laws regarding cycling (see attached PDF), which may include local helmet laws for children in some communities (Sitka, Juneau, Bethel, Kenai and Anchorage are some of the communities with helmet laws).
You may ask why it is important for cyclists to respect the rules of the road. Well, even though there have been gains in cycling becoming a more accepted form of transportation, there also has been some backlash against cyclists in other communities. For example, recently a couple of mining communities in Colorado (including Black Hawk) banned cycling on city streets. Then there’s St. Charles County, Mo., which is debating a similar ban on bikes using state highways in its part of the state. We can’t expect cyclists to be respected on the roads unless we also respect the rights of motorized vehicles.