One of the most commonly held misconceptions is that cyclists must ride on the sidewalk. There's nothing more maddening to a cyclist than a driver passing and yelling out the window, "Get on the sidewalk!" Most serious cyclists are aware that Michigan law considers a bicycle a vehicle and that its operator is entitled to reasonable use of the road. What most cyclists seem to forget, though, is that with the right to ride on the road come responsibilities. We must all obey the rules of the road. All too often cyclists place more emphasis on their rights than on their duties. Like driving, cycling on the road is a privilege.
Failing to abide by those responsibilities can have grave consequences, as one Oregon cyclist learned this past year when he struck and killed an elderly woman who was crossing the street at an unmarked crosswalk. The cyclist had run a stop sign, and, as a result, was charged with reckless driving and second-degree manslaughter. He was also forced to post a $57,500 bond in order to be released from jail pending the trial. Unfortunately, we don't know the final outcome of the case at printing. At first blush, the charge might seem extreme, and, it's possible that the local authorities were trying to make an example of the cyclist or were under some other sort of political pressure. We can, however, learn a valuable lesson from his mistake: OBEY THE LAW!
Most cyclists drive motor vehicles and know the basic rules of the road. Cyclists, like drivers, must, at a minimum, do the following:
- Stop at all stop signs and traffic lights
- Yield to pedestrians
- Use hand signals when turning
- Ride no more than two abreast. Ride single file in heavy traffic or risk being cited for impeding traffic.
- Abide by the speed limit. As crazy as this may sound, we have heard of cyclists being cited for exceeding the posted speed limit.
- Pass on the left when on a two way street, if appropriate (and safe).
- Ride with the flow of traffic and to the right of the right lane.
The biggest mistake a cyclist can make is to act as if he is above the law. It leaves the cyclist with little room to complain, if pedestrians and motorists constantly see bicyclists disregarding the law. If bikers want others to respect their rights, they have to be beyond reproach and that means obeying all traffic laws. Be as concerned with your rights as your duties, and the road will be a safer place for us all.
As always, we welcome all questions, ideas and inquiries. Ride Safely!