2017-08-03 / Editorial

Remember bike safety rules

Legislative Lowdown
by Rep. Martin Grohman

Cycling in and around Biddeford this time of year is very popular, and for good reason. Riding in the area is beautiful. I enjoy biking out South Street toward Harris Farm and Andy’s Agway, or along Guinea Road and Oak Ridge Road toward the University of New England and Fortune’s Rocks beach. There’s also good mountain biking on the growing network within Clifford Park, which can be linked to trails within Blandings Park or over to Smith Preserve in Kennebunk by those in the know, as these trails are not well marked yet. Back on the road, it’s easy to find good loops in the area to ride, and you’ve probably noticed an increasing number of cyclists in the area. I often meet riders coming from long distances. Recently I’ve met riders from Quebec, Pittsburgh and Chicago.

However, there are several rules about bicycle safety, both for riders and drivers, that are not always evident. Drivers are required to give cyclists three feet of space. This is because cyclists might need to veer to avoid something in the road, and they need that space. Drivers should not pass until they can safely give that three feet of space.

When you’re driving, there’s a tendency to want to pass any bicycle. However, particularly when approaching an intersection, the cyclist has the right, and is in fact encouraged to come to the middle of the lane to safely move through the intersection in the same manner as a car. Please do not cross into the opposite lane to go around a cyclist at an intersection. This is illegal and dangerous.

I also recommend that all riders use a flashing safety light, even during the middle of the day. Mounted to your seat post, this is a quick and easy way to be visible from up to a mile away. I recently did a safety ride-along with a local truck driver. It was surprising how hard it is to see cyclists – particularly if they are not wearing bright colored clothing – from that vantage point up high. So you’re doing everybody a favor by using that safety light. I have a small USB rechargeable one that is very bright and attention-getting and lasts for several hours.

If you join the Bicycle Coalition of Maine, it will actually send you one. I also use a small rearview mirror. Unobtrusively mounted, this lets me glance down to my handlebar and see if anyone is approaching from behind. Also, please don’t honk at bicyclists. You may think you’re letting them know you’re there, but when you’re on the bike, it can scare you and make you jump. And as a cyclist, you should never wear headphones, because you may not be able to hear approaching traffic.

In general, a cyclist should act like a car in intersections and when turning. In the intersection, all of the same rules that apply to cars apply to bikes, such as waiting for turn lights and waiting your turn at four way stops.

Emphatic hand signals to indicate your intentions are important. Remember that training to indicate a right turn by holding up your left arm, bent at the elbow? Most people don’t recommend that anymore, since the rule is not that widely understood. Instead, I stick my right arm out, point and waggle my hand to attract attention. I think it’s a much clearer turn signal, and many cycling safety advocates recommend it now.

We have more work to do to promote bicycle safety in and around Biddeford. Recent work on our Main Street on traffic calming should help cyclists. However, traffic volumes are high and in a hurry, and with the school year approaching, the roads are always busy, particularly around Hill and Granite streets and near the high school. Please take an extra few seconds to be careful both when driving and riding.

Rep. Martin Grohman of Biddeford is serving his second term in the Maine Legislature. Outside the legislature, he is chair of the Biddeford Solid Waste Commission (note that Household Hazardous Waste Day is Saturday September 9). Marty also hosts a podcast for Maine entrepreneurs called The Grow Maine Show, available on Apple Podcasts. Sign up for legislative updates at www.growmaine.com or facebook.com/repgrohman.

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