Advocate Editorial Board opinion: Victoria needs to consider cyclists on roads
Bicycling is a popular activity in America. Whether it is used for fitness, recreation or transportation, bicyclists can be found all across the nation.
Victoria and other Crossroads communities have their share of bicycle enthusiasts and clubs, including events open to the public. However, many of the city's streets are not constructed with bicycle riders, or even pedestrians, in mind. Some of the newer road construction has improved sidewalks, providing spaces for pedestrians, but bicycle lanes are nonexistent. According to bicyclesafe.com, a website created by a bicycle rider to advise others on safety, riding on a sidewalk can be more dangerous than on a road, since drivers do not look at who is using the sidewalk. Because of this, cyclists must share the road with cars, pickups, tractor-trailers and other vehicles much larger and faster than themselves.
Because of this, cyclists must be especially cautious when on the road. Traffic laws cover some of the basics of safety, but not everyone knows or follows the law when driving. Monday's Traffic Tips column from the Victoria Police Department outlined the law concerning bicycles on the roadway, and we wish to emphasize certain important pieces of these rules of the road:
Always ride with traffic, not against it.
Riders should always stay on the right side of the road unless they are passing a slower vehicle, preparing to turn left or the rider needs to avoid an obstruction or damage in the roadway. If the lane is less than 14 feet wide without a bicycle lane or is too narrow for both a vehicle and bicycle to share the lane, or the road is one-way with multiple lanes, riders should use the center of the lane. Riders may also ride two abreast, but must stay in a single lane and may not impede the flow of traffic.
Bicycles must be equipped with brakes strong enough to make a tire skid on dry, clean pavement, a white lamp on the front and red lamp on back, as well as a red reflector if the bicycle will be used for nighttime riding.
These rules provide a good starting point for bicycle safety, but not everyone knows or understands the application of these laws while driving day-to-day. We encourage bicycle riders and vehicle drivers to be aware of their surroundings at all times. Cyclists especially cannot afford to assume drivers know and follow all the laws, or are even aware of a cyclist's presence in traffic. We encourage motorists to respect and give extra space when driving behind or passing a cyclist.
A bicycle is more than just a source of recreation. It is also a cheap mode of transportation used by many people who cannot afford a car or choose to save money on gas. We encourage everyone, whether they be cyclists or drivers, to be aware when on the road and always keep safety in mind. And we encourage our city leaders to examine the option of bicycle lanes or other safety options to protect cyclists in Victoria. Bicycles are useful tools, but the lack of safe areas to ride is a limiting factor in Victoria. We hope that will change.
This editorial reflects the views of the Victoria Advocate's editorial board.