Monday, April 2, 2007

Ways to Get Busted On Your Bike

Bike Commuters.com has a list of infractions that the police in Topeka are enforcing this biking season... even though it's not Columbus, I see no reason that our boys in white and the police in surrounding suburbs won't be doing the same. Be safe, be smart, and be courteous. I've noted some comments below:
Maj. John Sidwell, spokesman for Topeka police, talked about some of the main infractions.

1. Failing to stop completely at a stop sign or red light. “Every year we work accident scenes between people on bikes and people in cars. Doing a bump and run on a stop sign doesn’t give you an adequate amount of time to see a car coming. We do write citations for this.”
It's frustrating for us as cyclists to hear about the police enforcing this when it's obvious that they rarely enforce it with motorists. But let's try to keep to the straight and narrow on this one.

Also, for those of you who know how to do "track stands," I've seen reports from various places that police, particularly those who don't ride themselves, don't realize that it is possible to come to full controlled stop without your feet touching the ground. It probably behooves you to touch the ground, even if it means disengaging your feet from pedal clips and such.
2. Riding the wrong way on a one-way street. “This really is a major hazard. Think about your driving. When you pull up to a stop sign at a one-way street, you look at oncoming traffic. No one is coming, so you pull out. You don’t look both ways.”
This is just dumb. Don't do it.
3. Not stopping for school buses that are loading or unloading children. It is the same law as with a car. “You can cause yourself injury and cause the pedestrian, or kid, injury, if you go by that bus and a child runs out in front.”
I often get into discussions with my wife about driving and pedestrians and how they always have the right of way, no matter if they're in the wrong (jaywalking, etc.) or not. The same goes for cycling - pedestrians, which we are NOT, always have the right of way. That goes double for kids getting off or on school buses.
4. Riding after dusk without a front head lamp that emits a white light visible for at least 500 feet. “Think of the car driver. Most look for headlights. If they don’t see anything, they figure they are clear to go. It comes down to a visibility issue so other vehicles can see you are on the roadway.”
This is Columbus law anyway and the smart thing to do. Remember - staying visible is the best way to stay safe.
5. Riding at speeds faster than what is reasonable and proper for road conditions and safety.
A pain - this is a judgement call, and police who aren't cyclists may not know what's safe and what's not. But don't push it.
6. Not using arm signals when changing directions or stopping.
See number one. I wish that the police would enforce this across the board but they don't.
7. Riding three or more abreast. “Traditionally speaking, if they will break and allow traffic to get by, we normally won’t write them a citation. But if they are making traffic go out of their way, we can write (the cyclists) a ticket.”
Again, this is Columbus law. Two abreast at the most. I wish they were a tad more clear, though. Will they write a ticket for two cyclists abreast, if they think traffic is being held up?

NOT A LAW, BUT …

“We very, very strongly recommend helmets, particularly for kids. Every year, we work accidents where children fall and hit their heads on the curb. They die or receive severe injuries. Helmets are extremely important.”
It just goes without saying. Helmets save people from injuries. And kids fall down more than adults on bikes - they try stuff that is more dangerous and they don't always have full coordination.
NO KIDDING …

“Sometimes, people are in disbelief that they are actually getting a ticket. Often, they don’t realize they are in violation of the law. Normally, we don’t give kids tickets. What you are trying to do is get the person not to do it again. Often, kids are pretty pliable if you chat with them.”
I think this is especially the case for new cyclists, who don't realize that they have the same rights and responsibilities as a motorist.

With more and more bikes taking to the roads, though, you can be sure that police are going to be watching for us and our mistakes.

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