Kids and Bikes
More than ever, people tell me that Ukiah is changing and some things just aren’t the same as they were in the good old days. I hear, “Ukiah was a much smaller town… Ukiah was a much safer town... Ukiah was the kind of town where kids would be safe riding their bikes anywhere. ”
That last one made me think. Today, our streets are more crowded than ever and people seem like they’re in a big hurry all the time.
Because our patrol staff has been reduced by budget cuts, it’s harder for them to find time to prevent traffic violations. These days, our officers spend most of their time preventing and solving violent crimes.
Of course, this doesn’t make traffic violations less important. It’s just hard to balance a reduced work force with an increased workload.
To address the traffic issues, officers recently began spending some time each day on speed and traffic safety. Officers have been enforcing traffic laws in neighborhoods where residents commonly complain about speeding, and in areas where bikes and cars commonly share the roadway.
Yet, even though our officers are doing all they can, I still worry about speeding cars, risky driving, and kids riding their bikes.
With summer officially here and everyone out of school, I thought it would be a good time to raise awareness that motorists and cyclists need to share the road.
Sharing the road isn't about who has more "right" to be there – we all have the right to be there, whether we're commuting, running errands, or riding our bikes to the city park or pool.
Sharing the road means we all (bike and cars) need to use roadways in the safest possible manner.
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 – just a bicycle frame and hopefully a helmet. So while treating bicyclists like drivers is accurate, it doesn’t hurt to give then a little added 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.
The best way to avoid injury, however, is to avoid the accident all together.
Most accidents have multiple causes, but wherever blame lies, a bike will always lose against a car—and 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 cyclists 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.
A website that really gets into detailed recommendations on how to ride safely is www.bicyclesafe.com. 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.
Cycling is great exercise and great for the environment, so how can we make it safer? As our community continues to develop, we can change the physical structure of roads to include bike paths. We can create greenbelts that bypass roads altogether and 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, approximately 900 people die from injuries due to bicycle crashes and more than 500,000 people are treated in emergency departments. Head injury is by far the greatest risk for cyclists. Properly wearing a helmet while you’re cycling is your best means of protection against injury. According to recent research, helmets provide a 63 to 88 percent reduction in the risk of head injuries for cyclists.
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. Think of how devastating it would be to hit a cyclist and destroy a life. If we focus on driving while we’re driving, instead of talking on the phone or 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: www.ukiahpolice.com.