With the stretch of warm weather last month, it's time to remind motorists that, by law, roads (except for interstate highways and expressways) are to be shared with bicycles, in-line skaters and pedestrians. Recent changes to Vehicle and Traffic Law should make for safer biking and walking along our highways, but motorists, bicyclists, and pedestrians must know the applicable laws governing this shared usage. Every year there are new bicyclists, and they, and their parents may not know all the vehicle and traffic laws that apply, and even seasoned bikers are often ignorant of the laws, or perhaps chose not to obey them. Following is what you should know about the applicable laws for bicycling, in-line skating and walking along the road.
Bicyclists and in-line skaters must obey the same laws that apply to motor vehicles, including all traffic signals, signs and pavement markings, as well as stopping for pedestrians in crosswalks.
Bicyclist (and skaters) must also:
Ride and skate WITH traffic. (Bicycling and skating against traffic are leading causes of crashes. Moving with traffic makes bicyclists and skaters more visible and their movements more predictable to motorists).
Where bicycle lanes are not available, which is the norm in the North Country, cyclists and skaters may use the right edge or curb of the roadway. They may move farther left to avoid hazards or to turn left.
Bike riders must signal for turns whether driving on a roadway or bike path.
They may ride/skate two abreast on roadways, but they must ride or skate single file when being overtaken by other vehicles.
Bicyclists and in-line skaters less than 14 years old MUST wear safety certified bicycle helmets. However, every bicyclist or in-line skater should wear an approved helmet, which significantly reduces the risk of a serious head injury.
Children 1 to 4 years old must wear certified bicycle helmets AND ride in child safety seats.
Children less than one year old are prohibited from being transported on a bicycle.
Bicycles must be equipped with a brake that is capable of making the bike tires skid on dry level pavement, and must have a bell, horn or other device that can be heard at least 100 feet away.
Bicycles driven at night must have a white front headlight, visible for at least 500 feet, and a red or amber taillight visible for at least 300 feet.
Some municipalities prohibit in-line skating and/or riding bicycles on sidewalks.
Pedestrians also must obey applicable laws when sharing the roads. For instance, they are not allowed to walk in a street or road where sidewalks are provided and they may be used safely. However, when walking along a street or road without sidewalks, they MUST walk on the left side of the road, FACING traffic. Walking should be on the shoulder, not in the driving lane. Although not required by law (perhaps it should be), pedestrians should wear bright, reflective clothing in darkness and/or carry a flashlight.
Motorists also have laws that they should know and obey relative to sharing the road. Two V & T laws apply here. Article 1120 (a)(2) exempts vehicles from driving on the right side of the road when "overtaking or passing bicyclists, pedestrians, animals or obstructions on the right half of the roadway". This means the driver may move into the oncoming lane, providing he/she yields the right of way to any vehicle traveling in the proper direction, in order to safely give plenty of space between your vehicle and the bicyclist or pedestrian when passing them. Article 1122-a requires a driver, when overtaking a bicycle on the same side of the roadway, to "pass to the left of such bicycle at a safe distance until safely clear thereof."
In summary, roads and highways are meant for shared use, not just for motorists. This can be done safely if, and only if, we all recognize that safety comes first. Know the laws, enjoy the healthy benefits of bicycling, in-line skating, and walking safely. For more articles on vehicle and traffic law and traffic safety, go to the Traffic Safety Board website at www.franklincony.org and find Traffic Safety Board under "Departments."