Bicycling with common sense

Summer weather generally brings out people who enjoy riding their bicycles. Mountain biking on the trails, roadway bicycles on the highways and streets, and BMX riders doing stunts on any piece of dry pavement or area that creates a challenging obstacle for them.

Though this is a healthy, outdoor recreational activity, it can pose some hazards if people choose to ignore some basic rules. Most of this article will be directed towards people riding on the streets and highways as we commonly see strong and clearly divided opinions from motor vehicle drivers and the bicyclists themselves.

Bicycles, at least by state law, are not required to be registered or have insurance, but they are permitted on all roadways (except limited-access highways) and have all of the rights and duties applicable to the driver of a vehicle.

Like it or not, the motoring public and bicyclists share the road.

Although bicycles are not considered “vehicles” by Michigan vehicle code definitions, they still are subject to most of the same rules. Some examples would be, adhering to speed limits, stop signs, stop lights, using turn/stop signals, using lights during hours of darkness and having operable brakes.

You are even prohibited from texting while riding a bicycle. Yes, this is correct. If using a cell phone while riding, it must be a hands-free type.

We all want to get from point A to point B safely when travelling the roadways. We also all have an obligation to drive sanely and adjust to changing traffic conditions, weather, road conditions, and the presence of pedestrians or slow moving alternate transportation modes.

In most cases, bicycles are not travelling nearly as fast as motor vehicles, and you need to respect their right of way. Travelling in the same direction, this generally requires you to slow down and determine if you can proceed by them safely.

Bicycles do have the right of way here, but by law, they are required to travel as close as practical to the right-hand curb or edge of the roadway. There are some exceptions.

Also by law, they are not technically impeding traffic. This might be contrary to popular belief, but it is clarified in the Michigan Vehicle Code.

With all of this being said, the roadways need to be shared and we all need to exercise common sense, courtesy, and patience. Motorists need to recognize the rights of bicyclists and bicyclists need to use extra precautions while using the roadways.

A 40-pound bike with a 130-pound rider is no match for a 4,000-pound vehicle. Riders should always use protective gear, mirrors, lights and bright, reflective clothing. Use the required signals, obey the traffic laws, and don’t allow yourself to become distracted.

You have the right to use the traffic lane, but common sense should tell you to stay as far to the right edge of the roadway as you can.

If there is a wide, paved shoulder, it may make some sense to use it to your advantage. Keep as much of a buffer as possible between yourself and motor vehicles.

Maybe consider taking alternate routes instead of high-traffic areas during peak travel times.

My last point is to parents. Kids love bicycles. Parents, please keep your kids safe. Watch them, teach them how to be safe, and restrict their riding to non-traffic areas if at all possible.

Matt Djerf is the community service trooper for the Michigan State Police-Calumet Post.