Did You Know – Biking?

The “Did You Know?” is a series of short articles intended to inform residents and visitors of Bowling Green about current topics of interest. The series will run throughout the year, with articles issued every few months.

Did you know that when riding your bicycle on the street you have the same rights and responsibilities as motorists? Did you know that if you ride your bicycle on sidewalks you are considered a pedestrian and must act accordingly?  This past fall the City asked –  Yay Bikes! – a biking advocacy non-profit out of Columbus – to come to Bowling Green to assess the “bikability” of our streets as well as help City staff consider the application of complete streets in Bowling Green.  Complete streets or Active Transportation is the concept of making roads more accessible to all users – vehicle, bicycle, and pedestrian traffic.

According to Yay Bikes!, the streets in Bowling Green are extremely bikeable, with relatively narrow lane widths that help create a safe environment for bicyclists, ensuring vehicles adhere to speed limits. Yay Bikes! suggestions included: updating signage around the City from “Share The Road” signs to “Bikes May Use Full Lane” signs; increasing education for residents to better understand how to safely bike on the roads and for motorists to understand the rights of bicyclists; and, to carefully consider all treatments – sharrows, side-paths, bike lanes – along with the long-term maintenance of each of these treatments.

Section 4511.55 of the Ohio Revised Code stipulates that “every person operating a bicycle upon a roadway shall ride as near to the right side of the roadway as practicable obeying all traffic rules applicable to vehicles and exercising due care when passing a standing vehicle or one proceeding in the same direction.” Practicable is an interesting, and often confusing, word.  In this case it simply means that bicyclists should ride as far to the right as the operator feels he or she can do so safely and reasonably.  This does not mean he or she must ride all the way to the right of the lane.  As a rule of thumb, someone operating a bicycle should place himself or herself on the road approximately where the passenger tire of a vehicle would be – roughly three feet from the curb.  By doing so, this maximizes the bicyclist’s visibility within the roadway.

A key to safely biking along the roadway is to act as a vehicle. The Revised Code is clear on this – bicyclists must follow all traffic laws including the use of lights (front and back), stopping at traffic lights or stop signs, and signaling intent to turn.  The underlying theme in both the Revised Code and bicycling educational materials is that a bicyclist should be predictable – just as a motorist is predictable.  When done properly, riding on the road is much safer than riding on a sidewalk and is much easier as well.

The City has started to implement some of the suggestions from Yay Bikes! such as signage and education. Already this year, the City has changed 30 “Share The Road” signs with “Bikes May Use Full Lane” signs.  The Yay Bikes! website is a helpful tool to better understand some of these issues, the laws, responsibilities, and rights.  Visit www.yaybikes.com to get more! Check out the City’s Bicycle Safety Commission webpage too for helpful information.

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