Obeying bike rules
August 12, 2007
Recently, I received an e-mail from a local asking about the rules for riding a bicycle on a bike path. Her question came from genuine interest to improve the quality and safety for cycling on the increasingly popular Tahoe City bike trails during the summer months.
I thought her concern was probably shared by other trail users and that it made perfect sense to cover this topic.
First and foremost, a bicycle is a transportation vehicle governed by the Department of Motor Vehicles and therefore is subject to the same laws and codes pertaining to use of motorized vehicles while traveling on the roads ” with some exceptions.
The recent growth of paved, multi-use bicycle paths may have led to some confusion about the rules of the road. For the most part, all of us were introduced to bicycling as children and learned to ride on sidewalks to feel safe from cars.
Today, many novice riders may interpret the paved bike paths as glorified sidewalks and not restricted by any rules of the road. This kind of thinking about bike paths creates serious potential for conflict and injuries among bicyclists, pedestrians, people pushing baby strollers and wheelchair operators.
To help increase the safe enjoyment by all users of the bike path, I have prepared some important rules and traffic codes: (Consult your state’s vehicle codes and local ordinances for more specifics.)
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– Always wear a helmet. It’s mandatory in California for any rider younger than 18.
– Always ride to the right and in the same direction as traffic.
– Before passing another bicyclist or pedestrian, slow down and look back for oncoming traffic. Pass on the left and let them know you are passing. Use a bell or a command like, “passing on the left,” well before you are upon them. Caution is needed because you may startle them into your path.
– Ride single file when traffic is present. Do not ride more than two abreast except on paths set aside for the exclusive use of bicycles.
– Never wear headphones while riding your bicycle.
– Sidewalks may or may not be ridden as defined by local ordinances. If you ride on a sidewalk, always yield to pedestrians.
– Even when you have the right of way, always make sure motorists see you.
– Make yourself highly visible. Wear bright colors during the day and reflective clothing at night.
– When riding after sundown or before sunrise, your bicycle must be equipped with a white headlight and a red rear reflector, as well as side reflectors.
– Maintain your bike with proper braking power and only have the number of riders for which the bike was designed.
– Have fun. Be safe. Know and obey the riding rules.
Ty Polastri is the president of the Lake Tahoe Bicycle Coalition.