Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Bicycling and the Law Event for Bike to Work Week

It only took till Tuesday for me to get to one of the fine Consider Biking Bike to Work Week events, which pleases me to no end! I took in the lecture by Jon Gideon of CB (and longtime advocate for cycling in the city of Columbus and its environs) on "Bicycling and the Law." The event was jointly sponsored by CB and Bike OSU, the OSU bike commuter group, and was organized by Austin Kocher.

The lecture was an introductory course, more or less, on the rights and responsibilities of cyclists on the road. Jon began with some of the mistakes that first-time cyclists make:  
  • Sidewalk cycling.
  • Cycling the wrong way on a street, and going against traffic.  
  • Not using lights when visibility is diminished.  
  • Cycling in the door zone.  
  • Weaving in and out when passing parked cars.  
  • Running red lights, stop signs, etc.  
An explanation of the difference between a vehicle and a pedestrian then followed, and Jon clearly pointed out that bikes are VEHICLES, according to Ohio traffic code.  And as drivers of vehicles, cyclists have rights and responsibilities just like cars.  

A key right and responsibility is to stay clear of the door zone.  Experienced cyclists know that this is the three to four foot zone to the left of parked cars, far enough away that if an inattentive driver or passenger of a car opens it that the cyclist won't "win the door prize."  

Jon then handed out copies of BicycleSafe.com, a wonderful resource to explain the safe and legal way to ride in many possibly dangerous situations.  I'll leave that for readers to peruse, but it's a wonderful guide to riding safely in traffic.  

Some interesting points that many folks don't think about:  
  • Traffic laws of all sorts apply to cyclists just like motorists:  including DUI laws.  Yes, you can be arrested for cycling under the influence.  
  • State law doesn't prohibit cycling on the sidewalk, they leave that to municipalities.  However, state law DOES prohibit any law that REQUIRES cyclists to use sidewalks.  
  • There are currently two very important bills that are being perused in the Ohio General Assembly:  a three-foot law; and even more important, a vulnerable users protection law.  I was obviously VERY excited to hear about this!  
Finally, Jon finished with a quick discussion about what to do if you're in an accident:  

REPORT IT! 

The city, state, and other agencies use police report data to create statistics that inform the policy-makers about accident rates, etc.   So the more accurate that data is, the more it will help cyclists in the future.  It doesn't help anyone to keep quiet in these situations, so call the police if you're in an accident. 

And Gordon Renkes, a local LCI, gave us a great idea for reporting "close call" drivers:  use the DUI hotline at 1-800-GRAB-DUI!  There's also a cell phone version at *DUI that we can use.  It's a great way to get drivers to think about what they did and how dangerous they are.  Use the stigma of drunken driving to our advantage!  

I want to thank Jon for all the great information, and Austin and Meredith Joy of Consider Biking for putting this event together!  It was pretty well attended by cyclists of varying levels of experience, and there were some great questions from cyclists of all levels.  

People, not speed.

2 comments:

  1. I have a question: How can a rider avoid the "door zone" when they have a car passing & crowding them on the left and an un-attentive person opening their car door in front of them without looking?
    My daughter was caught in this situation and unfortunately, hit the open car door. Luckily, she only had a moderately severe cut finger and a bruised stomach. Yet, when the Columbus Police arrived, the policeman issue her a citation, not the driver of the car.
    If she had been driving a car and knocked off the car door then the paked driver would have been issue a citation. What is the deal with the Columbus Police ?

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  2. To me, the answer is to take the lane. Don't ride so you're just barely out of the door zone, if you're not feeling safe then take the whole lane. That way you make it impossible for that passing car to crowd you and you're well out of the door zone. Control the lane, you have the right to it.

    As far as this ticket goes, the policeman was in the wrong and I'd suggest fighting this one if possible. The law states that a person in a parked car has the liability if they open a door and hit someone.

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