Hey Bikers: Don’t forget you ARE Traffic

Tuesday Jun. 1st, 2010

Brian Menkhaus

You have a bike? Good for you. Now learn to ride it.
What I don’t mean is screaming around corners, hopping between lanes and blowing away all traffic laws with a flip of your fingerless-gloved hand. You ARE traffic. You actually DO have to follow some rules. And trust me, you want to. They exist for the safety of that tough but far from unbreakable head of yours and its position above your neck.
This article is directed at both bikers and drivers. It is not an article saying “Oh look at me I’m a biker and special and saving the earth and blah, blah, blah.” These words are for everyone. Lives may possibly depend on some of the things I would like to share with you. So please pay attention.

I bike and I drive. Both very regularly. I enjoy them both. Either way, I am considered traffic and must adhere to all regulations. Transporting myself and my family in one way or another does not mean I am excluded from these laws. Everyone should take the time to be both behind the wheel and behind the handlebars. It offers a whole new perspective; the intention being that it will never be one of which the pavement is up and the sky down.

I recently had the honor of participating in a bicycle safety meeting led by Tom and Mary Keck. Together with Russell, they founded Collins Coalition following Collin’s tragic death in a traffic-related biking accident two years ago. Along with devoted members of BABAB (Bozeman Area Bike Advisory Board) and the Bozeman Bike Kitchen, they are spearheading an effort to make biking safer through a variety of ways. One of the proposals was to clarify local and state laws regarding the use of bicycles. The hope is to make both drivers and riders more aware of each other and, ultimately, allowing for a safer relationship between bikes and cars. Following are those simplified rules courtesy of Tom and Mary. Please take the time to read through them. I cringe at the cliché but see its blatant truth: “It just may save your life.”

Montana State Law for Bicycles

General Rules – Bicycles or Bicycle Riders:

• Have all the same rights and are subject to the same laws as motor vehicles.
• Must ride on or astride a permanently attached seat.
• While riding must not be attached to any other motor or self-propelled vehicle.
• Shall not carry any package or item that prevents them from having at least one hand on the handle bars.
• Must be equipped with effective and operational brakes.

Riding on Roadways – Traveling Slower than Normal Traffic Speed

Shall ride as near to the right side of the road as practical, except when:

• Overtaking and passing another vehicle proceeding in the same direction
• Preparing to turn left at an intersection
•Necessary to avoid an unsafe condition
•Traveling on a one-way highway with two or more marked traffic lanes – in which case may ride as close as practical to the left side of the roadway.

Shall ride in single file except when:

• Riding on a path exclusively used for bicycles
• Overtaking and passing another bicycle
• Riding on a paved shoulder or parking lane (two abreast max.)
• Riding within a single lane on a roadway with at least two lanes in each direction and not impeding traffic (two abreast max.)

Bicycles Used at Night

Must have a lamp on the front with a white light visible from at least 500 feet, a colorless front-facing reflector, colorless or amber pedal reflectors (mounted both front and back on each pedal), and a red, rear-facing reflector.

Bicycles on Sidewalks

• Shall yield the right-of-way to any pedestrian.
• Shall give an audible signal before overtaking or passing any pedestrian.
• Have all the same rights and are subject to the same laws as pedestrians except when bicycle use is prohibited…   See below**

Bozeman City Ordinance 10.48.180 Riding on Sidewalks – Restrictions

** No person shall ride a bicycle upon any sidewalk in the main business district. No person over the age of 15 shall ride any bicycle on any sidewalk within the city. Walking a bicycle on sidewalks is permitted.

The next time you find yourself on the road, as either a rider or a driver, remember these simple rules. They exist for your safety. And always be aware of both your actions and those of the people around you.

For more information, visit www.collinscoalition.org, www.bikebozeman.ning.com, and www.bozemanbikekitchen.org

Brian Menkhaus is the owner/operator and maintence manager of the Bike Peddler at 101 East Oak Street in Bozeman. 406-587-3737