Bicycle safety

Wisconsin Portal The State of Wisconsin Internet Portal/Web site placed a link at the top of its site for bicycle safety. The link takes you to the Wisconsin Department of Transportation’s Web site.

The highlights for cyclists from the bicycle safety page include:

  • Obey all traffic laws.
  • Communicate (be predictable), including using hand signals.
  • Pay attention to everything around you, especially any possible obstacles ahead.
  • Make yourself as visible as possible, but not so much that you don’t enjoy riding.
  • Ride at least three (3) feet from the curb, parked vehicles, or debris in the road.
  • Different situations call for different ways of riding in traffic; it’s best to assess how to ride in each situation.

The one thing that you should pull from all of this is that it’s important to share the road and obey all traffic laws. Not all drivers know how to react when they see a bicyclist. Some have had bad experiences, so they assume all cyclists don’t obey traffic laws. Others are just unclear of what the laws are. And it’s the bad bicyclists that ruin it for the rest of us. Remember, if it’s a contest between a bicycle and a car, the car driver is going to sustain less injury. Patience, the one thing lacking on most streets nowadays, must be maintained when riding in traffic. Getting upset with a motor vehicle driver will only make you frustrated. Instead, try not to get hit, and consider that the driver is either not sure how to react to a bicycle or feels that there is not enough room between you and the vehicle to his or her left.

Some bicycling experts advocate that bicycles should always be treated like vehicles (often known as vehicular bicycling). Although I think that it is a good idea to consider yourself a vehicle when riding, there may be instances when you should behave differently, such as when riding on a sidewalk or crossing an intersection as a pedestrian (in which case, get off the bike or ride at pedestrian pace). Others feel that a loosening of the rules is okay in special situations, such as running a stop sign when no one is around. I suggest approaching these very cautiously because they can lead to bad habits; I personally don’t condone running a stop sign or red light, ever.

In the end, it comes down to knowing what you’re doing, paying attention, following the laws, and cooperating with drivers. Much of it is based on experience (something that I’m still working on). If everyone follows the law, it becomes a non-issue. However, this is reality, and not everyone is aware of all of the laws surrounding bicycles in traffic. Classes are sometimes available to both children and adults that are interested in learning how to ride. Your local bicycle club may have information on such classes as well as additional information or resources.

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