Share the road with bicycles — know the laws

Bike riding time is here, but far too many bike riders are not obeying the laws designed to make riding safer.

And, every year, as small children grow big enough to ride bikes, a new group of riders begins what should be a lifetime of good fun and exercising. But not all parents are aware of the rules for bicycles.

And not all motorists are aware of how they must drive when bicycles are using the streets and roads. So let’s just review some of the basics.

First and most important, bicycles, by law, have just as much right to use our streets and roads as do motor vehicles. However, cyclists are also required by law to obey the same laws that apply to drivers, like stopping for pedestrians in a crosswalk, and obeying all traffic signals, signs and pavement markings. This includes stopping for stop signs and red traffic signals, which an incredible number of cyclists seem to ignore. Bicycles are required by law to ride on the right side of the road, with traffic, not against traffic like pedestrians must do when walking along the road. Riding with traffic makes a bicyclist more visible and their movements more predictable to motorists. Riding against traffic is one of the leading causes of crashes.

The law requires bicyclists to use hand signals for turns or lane changes. They must have a bell or horn audible for 100 feet. If they ride at night, they must have a white front headlight visible for at least 500 feet, and a red taillight visible for at least 300 feet.

The law also requires bicyclists less than 14 years old to wear a certified bike helmet. A parent who permits his or her child to violate this helmet law is subject to a fine of up to $50. For safety reasons, ALL bicyclists should wear helmets. Adults should set the example.

Children 1 to 4 years old must wear a certified bicycle helmet AND ride in child safety seats. Children less than 1 are prohibited from being transported on a bicycle.

Now for motorists -?there are some things you need to know about how you drive around bicycles. First, remember (I know I’m repeating this, but for a good reason) that bicycles have just as much right to use the street or road as you do. Respect them, and give them space. Any collision between a bicyclist and a motor vehicle will result in the motor vehicle winning. Whenever approaching a bicyclist, give him/her space. Move over into the oncoming lane if no vehicles are approaching, and if there are approaching vehicles, move as far to the left of your lane as is safe to do so.

Let’s cover another issue where there may be some misunderstanding. I bicycle quite frequently, and I find that motorists on town roads, where there are no pavement markings, will drive way over to the left to give me plenty of space. But on state roads, where the center line is painted, motorists will frequently not cross the center line even when there are no approaching vehicles. It’s possible they may think it is illegal for them to cross the centerline, but it isn’t. It’s perfectly permissible to cross the center line, provided it is safe to do so, even if it is a double solid line, in order to put more space between a motor vehicle and both pedestrians and bicyclists.

So let’s be courteous and share the road, motorists AND bicyclists. Any questions or concerns contact me, Dave Werner, at 518-483-1882 or email You may also visit the Traffic Safety Board’s web site at