For the second time in less than three months, Aquidneck Islanders were met with the news this week that a bicyclist had been struck by a motorist who by all accounts had been unaware of the victim's presence on the road.
It's hard to admit, but for those of us who use our bikes to navigate the city on any kind of a regular basis, the incident comes as no surprise. For years, advocates in the bicycling community have lamented the notion that it was only a matter of time before people begin to get hurt, or worse.
That's why we've been so inclined to support the efforts of Bike Newport, the volunteer advocacy group that has been at the forefront of recent efforts to make Newport the state's first Bicycle Friendly Community.
So far, the group has found a willing, albeit slightly passive partner in the city. That needs to change.
It's about time that our city leaders take a more proactive role in advocating for bike safety. Introducing bike lanes where possible, promoting share the road policies, and better enforcing traffic laws all come to mind as possible first steps in terms of governmental action.
On the road, we can all pay mind to the following rules of the road, as promoted by Bike Newport.
• Always wear a helmet: It’s not about how well you ride, it’s about the things that are out of your control. Helmets are required in RI for anyone 15 and younger. They are just plain smart for anyone else.
• Obey all traffic lights and signs: You wouldn’t run a red light in your car, don’t do it on your bicycle.
• Always ride in the same direction of the traffic: If it’s a one-way street for a car, it’s a one-way street for a bicycle. Always ride on the same side of the road as cars driving in the same direction. Never ride against traffic.
• Stay off the sidewalk: Cyclists 13 years and older may NOT ride on the sidewalk.
• Never carry another person on your bicycle: It’s the law.
• Always use lights at night: If they flash, even better. Wear light colored clothing and reflective bands.
• Always use hand signals when turning or stopping: car drivers are not mind readers. Let people know what you are planning to do.
• Look out for cars at cross streets, driveways, and parking places: Stay alert to everyone and everything else using the road.
• Be careful when checking traffic and don’t swerve when looking over your shoulder: Turning your head can turn your bicycle into traffic. Be careful!
• Give pedestrians the right-of-way: Pedestrians always have the right of way.
• Keep your bicycle in good condition: and take a basic bike maintenance class.
• Scan the roadway for cyclists on roadways and intersections
• When approaching cyclists, reduce your speed. Don't blast your horn – you could startle them and cause a crash
• Recognize hazards cyclists may face: Pay particular mind during bad weather or when road conditions are poor and give cyclists space.
• When following cyclists, don't tailgate and be prepared to stop quickly
• When passing a bicycle, do so slowly leaving at least three feet of passing space between your vehicle and the cyclist.
• Watch for approaching cyclists before opening your vehicle doors: One of the most common injuries sustained by cyclists stem from being "doored."
• Children on bicycles are often unpredictable – expect the unexpected, and slow down.