Each year, hundreds of cyclists are killed in motor vehicle traffic accidents. Arizona had 23 bicycle fatalities in 2011. The nation-wide average is 600 – 850 fatalities per year, an alarming number. Motorists and cyclists can work together to help reduce the number of fatalities.
According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, bicycles on the roadway are, by law, vehicles with the same rights and responsibilities as motorized vehicles. In many parts of the country, it is actually illegal to ride a bicycle on the sidewalk. Even when it is not explicitly outlawed, it is still dangerous for pedestrian traffic. On Fort Huachuca, bicyclists may ride on the walkways or sidewalks while giving pedestrians or foot traffic the right of way.
Cyclists, as well as motorists, have requirements and responsibilities as outlined in Fort Huachuca’s Regulation 190-5. All riders, regardless of age, must wear an appropriate helmet and a full reflective garment during the day and a reflective vest at night. The use of headphones is prohibited while riding bicycles on post. Cyclists must also obey speed limits, as well as all other traffic laws to include stopping at stop lights and stop signs. Additionally, cyclists must ride in the same direction as the traffic flow. Riders must always be vigilant, courteous and practice common sense when navigating around vehicular traffic so they won’t pose a danger or risk to themselves or others when cycling.
Bicyclists riding at night on Fort Huachuca must have a lamp on front of the bicycle that is clear and visible for up to 500 feet, a red reflector in the rear of the bicycle visible 300 feet from behind, and operable brakes.
Arizona law states that when overtaking bicycles, a motorist shall exercise due care by leaving a safe distance of not less than three feet between the motor vehicle and the bicycle until the motor vehicle is safely past the overtaken bicycle.
Cyclists on a roadway shall ride as close as practicable to the right-hand curb or edge of the roadway, except when passing, overtaking other bicycles or preparing for a left turn at an intersection. Also, those riding bicycles on roadways shall not ride more than two abreast, except on paths or parts of a roadway set aside for such activity.
Not all roads have bike lanes or shoulders for cyclists to use, and even when they are available, they may not always the safest place to ride. Parked cars, potholes, storm drains and debris post a hazard for cyclists. Loose gravel or swerving to avoid roadside debris can quickly land cyclists on the ground with a severe case of road rash.
Follow rules of the road
Cyclists are required to follow the same laws as motorists. For example, a cyclist should not ride while intoxicated. He or she must stop at stop signs and red lights. In addition, a rider must also signal their intent to turn, and must use head and tail lights after dark.
It is not uncommon for cyclists to cruise along a flat stretch of road at 20 or 25 mph. On a downhill stretch, a bicycle can easily reach 30 to 40 mph or more. Motorists should keep this in mind when pulling out or crossing in front of a bicycle or when attempting to pass.
Conversely, when going uphill, a cyclist will slow down considerably, often to only 5 or 10 mph depending on how steep the incline is. Motorists should be patient and pass the cyclist only when it’s safe to do so.
“I didn’t see you!” is no excuse
Motor vehicle operators are often distracted while operating their vehicles at 30, 40 or 50 mph. Keep your hands on the wheel and your eyes on the road. Drivers often claim “I didn’t see you!” as an excuse after hitting a cyclist.
That is no excuse. Share the road with cyclists and maintain an awareness of their presence on the road. Cyclists have to be aware of motorists, obey vehicle laws, follow the signs and signals, and most importantly, be alert to potential driving hazards.
Motorists and cyclists can avoid accidents if everyone learns to share the road responsibly.