Bicyclists need to learn the rules of the road

Photo credit: Rewon Shimray

Danger is no stranger to us in the world we live in today, one where everywhere we go we must be on the lookout for circumstances that could potentially be harmful to us or others. These dangers are present in our daily lives, even while we are on our way to class or a friend’s house.

While we all know that driving a car can be dangerous, we also need to think about our safety when we hop on a bicycle for a brisk ride to school.

According to the U.S. Department of Transportation, cyclist deaths on U.S. roads are rising, with 818 bicyclists having been killed on roads in 2015, a 12 percent increase since 2014. This could be coming from a multitude of things from distracted driving to flat-out carelessness. However, the message is clear — cautiousness and awareness on roads is vital.

Whether we realize it or not, a bicyclist is considered a driver and therefore must abide by the laws of the road just as any other vehicle driver must do. These laws include stopping at stop signs and red lights, staying in your lane, stopping for pedestrians and watching other drivers on the road.

On campus, these laws are no different. Cyclists on campus must follow these laws that have been put in place. Sadly, these laws are not currently being rigorously enforced as many bicyclists continue to act more like pedestrians than motor vehicle drivers.

In contrast, whether bicycles are following the laws set in place or not, motor vehicles must be courteous to bicycles also because they have precious lives riding on them.

Last year, we lost one of our own to a motorist who was speeding and not being cautious of others on the road.

These incidents, especially when fatal, are something we cannot push to the side and ignore, but something we must face and make changes for in order to decrease the number of fatalities.

Portland has been named “Bike City, U.S.A.” for its extensive, beautiful bikeways (315 miles to be exact), large bike commuter population (7 percent of Portland residents) and the overwhelming amount of bike-themed events that the city holds.

Portland has done an incredible job bringing awareness to the laws bikers must follow, and even more, provides maps and guidelines on where bikers should and shouldn’t ride. In addition, they also offer bike safety tips for riding in all kinds of weather, whether it be rain or shine.

Portland has brought awareness of the cyclists to four-wheel vehicle drivers, by hosting a number of events, showing the population how popular traveling by bicycle is in the city.

Some other cities have taken it a step further, by separating the road for cars from a special, protected road they have designed for bicycles. This design has a median between the cars and the bicycles to ensure safe travels.

Another element that some cities, Austin being one, have begun adding is specific stoplights for bicycles, where the light is in the shape of a bicycle. This increases the level of safety for the cyclists, ensuring that everyone knows exactly when and where they must stop.

Waco has also begun to make their own improvements, by passing an ordinance in April 2016 in order to make the roads of Waco safer for cyclists. The ordinance requires that motorists give cyclists adequate space to stay safe, prevents motorists from pulling in front of a cyclist, prohibits motorists from making right turns that endanger cyclists and also makes it a Class C misdemeanor to throw things at cyclists.

Even more, Waco has a long-term plan to implement bike lanes on many of the dangerous roads around the city. Within the next few years, we should begin to see changes made to roadways in order to assure the safety of cyclists.

Transportation safety is vital, and we should be doing as much as possible to ensure the safety of all vehicle drivers. These changes are necessary and beneficial to our society, and hopefully, by putting these in place, we will be able to keep people safe and secure wherever they decide to travel, on every mode of transportation.