City of Ukiah, California

Police Department

Safety · Professionalism · Community Service

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    Reduce Crime and the Fear of Crime

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    Continued Accountability

Bike Safety

May is National Bike Month and I was thinking that, whether you’re a kid or an adult, riding a bike is a healthy way to get around. This week I thought I’d write about some safety tips for riding your bike (and sharing the road while driving alongside of bikes), and next week I’d like to share some of the great events that are scheduled to occur in May to help celebrate and promote National Bike Month.

Bike riding keeps people in good shape and it doesn’t cause pollution. In countries where cycling is more common, roads are built with big shoulders where bicyclists can safely share the road with drivers who are on the lookout for people on bikes.

That’s not always the case here in Ukiah. 

Most people in Ukiah use cars or busses to get around, and they seem like they’re usually in a big hurry. With recent budget cuts, our police officers don’t have as much time to spend on traffic violations; they spend most of their time preventing and solving violent crimes.

This doesn’t make traffic violations less important. It’s just hard to balance more work with fewer officers.

Of course, UPD officers enforce traffic laws, and they try to spend extra time in neighborhoods where residents commonly complain about speeding or in areas where bikes and cars commonly share the roadway, but they just don’t have the time to make their presence felt in a way that makes drivers think twice about going too fast or rolling through a stop sign.

With summer right around the corner, I really worry about speeding cars, risky driving, and people riding their bikes, because kids will be out of school and riding bikes even more than they do now.

Sharing the road is really important – we all have the right to be there, whether we're commuting, running errands, or riding our bikes to the city park or pool. And, we should all use the road safely.

Think of bikes as cars. Legally speaking, bikes have the same rights and responsibilities as cars. Give bicyclists the appropriate right-of-way and treat them with the same consideration you’d give another driver.

Better yet, think of bikes as cars without safety features – no seat belts or crumple zones, no air bags, nothing between the person and the road (except maybe a bike helmet). So treat bicyclists like drivers, but give them a little extra leeway to help ensure their safety.

Sharing the road with a bicyclist is simple:

  • Allow extra space when passing bicyclists. If possible, give a bicyclist at least 3-4 feet of space when passing.
  • Slow down. Reduce your speed when approaching and passing a bike.
  • Keep your eyes open. Bikes can be hard to see, especially in your blind spots. Please pay special attention when driving through intersections and parking.
  • Be extra cautious around kids on bikes. Expect the unexpected when you see a kid on a bike. Slow down and give them as much room as you safely can.

If you’re the one on the bike, the best way to avoid injury is to avoid the accident all together.

Most accidents have multiple causes, but wherever blame lies, a bike will always lose against a car, especially a car traveling too fast. It doesn’t matter if you are riding your bike or driving a car, you must follow the rules of the road.

Even so, most experienced bicyclists will tell you they ride defensively because no matter how right they are, they can still be injured or killed by a motorist in the wrong.

For great tips on how to ride safely, check out The article titled, “How to Not Get Hit by Cars” reviews ten collision scenarios and how to avoid them. The article points out that wearing a helmet is a GREAT idea; it can save your life, but it doesn’t prevent you from being hit. The same can be said for bright clothing: it really helps drivers see you if they are looking for you, but a bright jersey alone won’t save your life like defensive riding will.

Since cycling is great exercise and great for the environment, how can we make it safer? As our community continues to develop, we can include bike paths and create greenbelts that bypass roads altogether to provide alternate routes for cyclists and pedestrians. These changes can’t happen overnight, but each time there’s an opportunity to include a safer route, it would be great if we could take advantage of it.

Each year in the United States, hundreds of people die from injuries due to bicycle crashes and more than 500,000 people are treated in emergency departments. Head injuries are by far the greatest risk for bicyclists. According to recent research, helmets provide a 63 to 88 percent reduction in the risk of head injuries for cyclists, so wear your helmet!

If you or your loved ones ride bicycles on the road, please wear your helmet and bright clothes, follow the rules of the road, and ride defensively.

For those of us who drive, we need to be present both physically and mentally--pay attention to what you’re doing when you’re behind the wheel. Don’t pay attention to your cell phone. It’ll wait. Think of how devastating it would be to hit a bicyclist and destroy a life. If we focus on driving while we’re driving, instead of allowing distractions to grab our attention, we will be safer and so will all those who share the road with us.

As always, our mission at UPD is simple: to make Ukiah as safe as possible. If you have any suggestions or comments about how we can improve, please feel free to call me, complete our online survey, or leave a crime tip on our website:  

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Safety · Professionalism · Community Service