May is Bike Month. The League of American Bicyclists, a national bicycle advocacy organization, and our local Rideshare program, use Bike Month to encourage bicycling as a viable and environmentally sound form of transportation. Rideshare is joining with many local community groups to create and sponsor events that promote cycling for commuting, fitness, recreation and family fun. For more information about local Bike Month programs and activities, please go to www.rideshare.org/bikemonth2012.
An important theme of Bike Month activities is to support and encourage safe cycling practices. Let’s start this effort with some basic information. The California Vehicle Code (CVC) affords bicycles the same right to the roadway as that of cars. The CVC also requires cyclists to obey the rules of the road in the same way that motorists are required to follow the rules of the road.
So, what’s the problem? The problem is that both cyclists and motorists don’t always follow the law. Some cyclists do not understand that they are “vehicles” on the roadway and are either unaware of or unconcerned about their legal responsibilities. Some motorists also break the law and are increasingly distracted from the critical, primary responsibility of safely operating a vehicle.
What can we all do to improve the safety of our roadways?
Cyclists: Obey the rules of the road. Be alert, visible and predictable. You are extremely vulnerable and the slightest misjudgment can cause severe injury and even death.
Motorists: Obey the rules of the road and accept the fact that cyclists have a legal right to the roadway. Drive defensively and, most of all, put that electronic gadget away and give your undivided attention to your driving.
Coincidentally, during Bike Month, the state Senate is considering a bill to require motorists to give bicyclists three feet of clearance when passing a bicyclist from behind. This law is important in that it gives bicyclists a margin of safety and it provides clear guidance to motorists when they encounter a bicyclist on the roadway. This legislation is especially appropriate in our county. We have many beautiful and scenic, but narrow, two lane roads that attract cyclists. The law will require the three-foot clearance when passing a bicyclist on this type of road, but will also allow motorists to legally and safely cross a double yellow line to give the required passing distance.
I encourage cyclists and motorists to contact our local state senator, Sam Blakeslee, and express support for this sensible legislation. For more information about the pending law, please go to http://calbike.org/advocacy/safe-passing.
Finally, while increasing safety for all users of our roadways is a serious and important matter, Bike Month reminds us that riding a bicycle is a fun and healthy activity for all ages. In San Luis Obispo County, we are fortunate to live in a beautiful natural environment that lends itself to commuting and touring by bicycle. Multi-use pathways and well-marked bike lanes on our roadways allow us to leave the car at home and enjoy a leisurely ride to coastal communities, parks, downtown eateries and even rural wineries. I encourage you to take a look at the Bike Month list of activities. Pump up the tires on that two-wheeler sitting in the garage and rediscover the joy of riding a bike.
Dave Abrecht is the Bicycle Advocate for the San Luis Obispo Bicycle Club. For more information about ride opportunities and safe cycling practices in our county, please visit the club website at www.slobc.org.