by Willard Deal
This month - Bicycling is booming in the Bay - find out what you can do as a driver and a cyclist to keep it safe!
Motor vehicle operators have their own obligations when driving on roadways with cyclists. Mainly, vehicles must leave no less than 3 feet of clearance when passing a bike and must not make a turn immediately in front of a passed bike unless that can be done safely. It is allowable for a motor vehicle to pass a bicycle in a “no passing zone” as long on-coming traffic is not a problem and the 3 foot rule is maintained.
Bike Helmets. There is no State law requiring riders to wear bike helmets. Starkville, Ridgeland and Hernando do have local ordinances with Starkville being the only town requiring helmets for all riders, not just those under the age of 17. However, sometimes things that are lawful aren’t always good for us.
Myron Labat tells a tale of helmet use convincingly enough to ensure that bicyclists with the Bay Rollers always wear helmets. Myron, President of the 12 member Bay Roller Bicycle Club (and Cleaver October 2012 Good Neighbor), had one of those oops moments with which we are all familiar. One slight misjudgment resulted in a two bike crash sending him to the pavement with his head striking hard. Without his helmet, … Well, let’s just say that the helmet saved more than the day.
Bike Lanes. Again, there are no local ordinances regarding bicycles, therefore no requirements that bicyclists use the bike lanes provided on Dunbar Avenue, or the bike path on Beach Blvd. Interestingly enough, MS State law on Bike Lanes only deals with motor vehicle obligations when bike lanes are present, mainly in that the “operator of a motor vehicle may not block the bicycle lane to oncoming bicycle traffic and shall yield to a bicyclist in the bicycle lane before entering or crossing the lane.”
Bay Roller President Labat and I share concern with foreign objects in our few bike lanes, such as gravel in the Dunbar Avenue lanes. It’s almost too dangerous to use those lanes and perfectly legal to ride in the road. To be fair, one shouldn’t expect BSL to constantly sweep those lanes.
Sidewalks are not bike lanes and bicycles are not allowed on sidewalks unless a bike lane is designated on that walk as it is in places on Beach Blvd. This is a far too common area of contention between cyclists and motor vehicle operators, and will become even more so contentious when sidewalks are added to Old Spanish Trail this spring and summer.
This leads me to one last issue. According to the Frerer Bicycle Safety Act, it is unlawful harass, taunt or maliciously throw an object at or in the direction of any person riding a bicycle. The law goes on to outline fines and jail time for doing so. There are not many drivers that know of this provision of law, or for that matter the share the road provisions. To be fair, not many cyclists know their responsibility either.
So for now, and until we can engage in some serious sign posting and education, y’all set good examples, be sensible and safe out there, pass along good biking habits, and we’ll see you on the road!