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Bicyclists Must Share Safety Responsibility
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In an age of environmental awareness and “green” initiatives, biking has become the foremost alternative form of transportation. For people looking to decrease their carbon footprint, a bike is an excellent substitute to a car for a quick ride to the ice cream shop. Columbus and other Ohio cities have take steps to make their communities more bike-friendly. Yet, as new biking-friendly initiatives continue to expand, we must also recognize the need for increased biking safety. The tragic death of a Pelatnoia rider last month reminds us all that before we get in the drivers seat, or sit behind the handle bars, everyone needs to know the rules of the road.
During my morning commute, I pass countless signs warning me to “share the road” and “give caution to bikers.” Yet, what percentage of Ohio drivers are aware of the proper way to “share the road”? We learn about bike safety when passing a drivers’ license test, but how frequently do we remind ourselves about the proper meaning of bike signals? Furthermore, where are the signs reminding bikers to signal when turning, or to stop at stop-signs? In addition to the need for drivers to drive cautiously, bikers too need to remember to adhere to proper roadway etiquette. If drivers and bikers are going to co-exist, the burden of safety should be placed on everyone’s shoulders.
We require motorcyclists, scooter, and moped drivers to pass safety-tests before venturing out onto the open roadways. All of these motorized machines carry equal amounts of road-way responsibility. Are bikers any different? Why does removing the motor suddenly allow bikers to refrain from carrying a license? I am not advocating for all bikers to possess a “safety license”. That would be impractical and difficult to enforce. Yet, if people choose to use bikes as their primary forms of transportation, then it is reasonable to expect them to adhere to traffic rules and standards before they ride down High Street at rush-hour. People choosing an eco-friendly lifestyle are trying to make “responsible” choices, yet their responsible thinking can often stop when their foot hits the pedal. Just as a drivers’ sense of caution cannot cease when turning the ignition key, bikers should similarly be aware.
Drivers, too, are not immune from criticism. If society is dedicated to becoming a biker-friendly environment, then drivers’ awareness of bike safety should be as commonplace as knowing the meaning of a red light or a yield sign. Perhaps in addition to the “drive cautious” signs we should also consider posting reminder signs of bike signals and “bike rules”. Children understand the meaning of stop signs from an early age. If bikes are a permanent alternative for gas-powered transportation, then we need an early start to teaching future drivers about the proper way to share the road with bikers.
We have to creating more environmentally savvy transportation options in this age of high gas prices and environmental threats. In order for Columbus to become a model for “green” transportation, bikers and drivers both need to learn and obey the rules of the road. Ensuring biking education not only helps create safer roadways; it can also create more friendly relationships between the Schwinns and the Corollas. So in the spirit of those cautious signs reminding drivers to share the roads – remember: sharing is a two-way street.