"Let's talk about bike safe-ty. Let's talk about you and me. Let's help avoid all the crashes and the smashes that may be."
-Salt N Pepa N Big Sporting D
Today, my friends, we are going to discuss the rules of the road and helmet safety as it pertains to those pedaling on two wheels as well as those with four wheels who need to take it easy with the first group.
As operators of motor vehicles, we all have a responsibility to those on bicycles (and motorcycles as well). Look, we have to share a lot of things on this planet and the roads are one of them. So relax out there. Being hostile toward cyclists gets you nowhere fast.
I'm a recreational cyclist. I usually ride with either my family; a group of 4-6 friends; or, less frequently, larger groups during charity and other event rides.
I’ve encountered it all on my bike: I’ve been spit on; forced into ditches; screamed at to the point of crashing; assaulted with objects ranging from basketballs to batteries; had dogs hanging out of windows trying to bite my face off; pushed and grabbed; and too many more to mention.
Unfortunately, my natural reaction is to try and catch up to them and demand an explanation — HA! Don't bother. It can turn even more dangerous. But my point is that it’s frustrating as all heck to be abused by these idiots.
It’s my road too! And if they happen to put one of my children in danger, I really can’t guarantee how I'll react. It's just instinctive, I suppose.
I’d like to suggest that all parents have a discussion with their teenage drivers and passengers about being respectful to cyclists and runners who are using the roads.
That's not to suggest that they are the only knuckleheads lashing out at cyclists, but I do find that most of the taunting comes from them. Some of the other issues ... well you know who you are. You know when you look me in the eyes and pull out in front at the last moment. You know when you hate to wait 20 seconds to pass and then gun it while missing me by mere inches. You know when you take the right-hand turn and cut me off for whatever reason.
Most adult drivers get frustrated with cyclists because they don't understand the rights that are provided to them under Connecticut state law. So as a public service to all who drive a car or ride a bicycle, here are a few items that you may not know (taken from the link below).
1. Left turns – Bicyclists may choose between a vehicular style left turn or a pedestrian style left turn (14-286c).
2. Riding 2 abreast – Riding 2 abreast is permitted as long as doing so does not impede the normal and reasonable movement of traffic. Riding more than 2 abreast is prohibited except on paths or roadways set aside for the exclusive use of bicycles (14-286b).
3. Lane positioning: in a lane that is too narrow to share safely, the bicyclist should take the lane by riding in the center of the lane or just to the right of center. A narrow lane is one in which there is not enough room for a motorist to pass a bicyclist within the lane while allowing a 3 foot passing buffer. Moving left in such a lane helps cue an overtaking driver who might otherwise misjudge passing space. In this situation, the bicyclist in the center of the lane is riding as far right as practicable
4. Vehicles Passing Bicycles – Safe passing distance means not less than three feet when the driver of a vehicle overtakes and passes a bicyclist (14-232). A vehicle operator who overtakes and passes a bicyclist proceeding in the same direction shall not make a right turn unless the turn can be made with reasonable safety and without impeding the travel of the person riding the bicycle (14-242).
Parents: You absolutely need to take the lead in making sure your kids are wearing their helmets. And for those of you who do not insist on it, shame on you. And when you hear a voice yelling, "Helmets please!" — that's me.
Whether they are cycling, skateboarding, rollerblading, or on a scooter, they need a helmet! Do spot checks! Show up at the skate part. Do a drive-by along their route. Alert the parents of friends. If you catch them not wearing a helmet, take their wheels away.
And put them on your children properly. If it’s loose or their little foreheads are exposed, do you really think it’s going to protect them? More than half of the helmets I see on children are not fitted properly.
Besides being the law for those under sixteen, it’s just plain old common sense. It makes just as much sense for you, the adult, to wear a helmet as well. For my older kids growing up, and now with The Boy, there was never a time in their lives where they did not see me with a helmet on.
If you are not wearing one, I have to ask two questions: Why? And do you not understand that children often mimic the actions of their parents?
So please, everyone, use good judgment while driving your cars as well as riding your bikes. And get with the program as far as helmets are concerned.
I’ll see you on the bike trails and on the roads. Don’t make me have to yell, “Helmet!” or “Are you crazy?” I get a little testy when it comes to helmets and the safety of cyclists.
About this column: Ron is the father of five and grandfather of one. He's been a sporting dad for almost 25 years. He's an expert in the field of expressing his own thoughts. You can read about what's happening on the other side of his brain in Blah Blah Blog at http://rongoralski.wordpress.com/.