New West Virginia Bike Law Gives Cyclists Cushion
Millions of people bicycle safely on public roads, but many are scared away because motorists sometimes pass too closely, honk, or tell cyclists to get off the road.
Though these behaviors are not the most common source of injuries to cyclists, they are unsafe and illegal. The traffic law says that drivers must pass at a safe distance. When a travel lane is not wide enough to share, safe bicyclists move to the middle of the lane to insure that motorists use the next lane over to pass or wait until it is safe.
Cyclists who ride too close to the edge of the road are risk colliding with suddenly-opening doors of parked cars or falling due to hazards such as sand, poor pavement, or debris.
Motorists can help prevent crashes with cyclists by taking care to follow the rules on yielding and turning.
Make sure to yield to cyclists when turning left or entering the road from a side street, driveway, or parking lane. Merge completely to the far right edge of the road in advance of making a right turn. Wait for any bicyclist ahead to clear the intersection before you make a right turn – do not turn across the path of the cyclist. Even if there is a bike lane, you should merge into the bike lane before turning right.
Cyclists, in turn, can make themselves safer and respected. Competent cyclists politely cooperate with other drivers by yielding when required, choosing the correct lane at intersections, using lights at night, and otherwise following the same traffic laws as motorists. Such cyclists are far safer than inexperienced cyclists.
Local cyclists seem to generally approve of new traffic laws in West Virginia to protect them, though many say the increasing number of riders on city streets already has created something of a truce with motorists.
The new law that passed the 2014 state Legislature session went into effect June 3 and requires vehicles to give cyclists a three-foot cushion when passing a bike on a roadway. The law also does away with a former provision that required cyclists to use an adjacent path instead of the road if it was available.
“Riding in a neighborhood with sidewalks, that’s what you want for your 6- or 8- or 10-year-old kid, maybe,” said John Yevuta. “But there’s also common sense, you don’t want someone barreling down a sidewalk at 20 miles per hour. To have clarity in the law for motorists and cyclists is helpful.”
Yevuta has been riding on roads for quite sometime now and has seen the good and the ugly. However, he feels in New Martinsville, the motorists have been very good to bicyclists.
“Certainly you’ve seen motorists become more tolerant over the past 20 to 30 years,” he said.
The cycling scene in New Martinsville and the surrounding towns has been on the cusp of exploding in recent years, but with projects like all the bike trails are bringing cyclists–young and old–together, and encouraging others to take up the activity.
He said he thinks the new law gives some good guidelines without becoming overly complex.
“I feel pretty comfortable with where we are right now,” he said. “The basic understanding of a cyclist maintaining a position as far to the right as they can safely do makes sense. Keeping that minimum passing bubble is a good rule of thumb to go by.
“Some roads are very dangerous on a bicycle because of the traffic and lack of a berm. The law may say you’re right, but you don’t want to end up dead right.”The law also puts some onus on the cyclist, requiring that a bike operated at night be outfitted with a front lamp that projects a white light visible from at least 500 feet, and a rear, red reflector that is visible to the headlights of a car from 50 feet to 300 feet.
The new regulations also prohibit groups of cyclists from riding more than two abreast except on paths or roadways that are for bicycle use only.
Local cyclist Wayne Anderson said he thinks the new law brings West Virginia up to date with general standards that exist in most other states.
“It’s a good, modern step,” he said. “Cyclists are here, get used to it.” Anderson manages Eliza Street Bicycles.
Yevuta went on to add that cyclists should ride with the traffic, and if they don’t have mirrors on their bikes that they should use the new glasses that you can see behind you, that Eliza Street Bicycles have on their shelves.
National Highway Traffic Safety Administration encourages all road users, including motorists and bicyclists, to respect each other and foster a safer transportation environment. Bicycles on the roadway are, by law, vehicles with the same rights, and responsibilities as motorized vehicles.
NHTSA’s bicycle safety program focus is on research, education, and enforcement of bicyclists’ and motorists’ behavior to enhance roadway safety and reduce bicycle injuries and fatalities in our nation.
Talking about injuries from cyclists, the Bicycle Helmet Safety Institute recommends that no one should ride a bicycle without a helmet.
In West Virginia, state law requires anyone 15 years of age and younger to wear a helmet while riding a bicycle. In some West Virginia cities, all bicyclists are required to wear a helmet while riding. Parents and students are advised to check local bicycle helmet laws.
There are other places the cyclists can ride their bikes in a safe area. Over 375 miles of train tracks have been converted into trails for walking, hiking, biking, and horseback riding. The rail trails, with their gentle or level grades and wide rights of way, are easily accessible and are among the most beautiful and scenic in the country. With almost 30 rail trails dispersed throughout the state, enjoying the outdoors becomes easy and fun for all ages.
West Virginia offers a wide variety of mountain cycling experiences, both on the highway and off road. “Beautiful and challenging” best describes the hundreds of miles of West Virginia’s roadways that are available to the adventurous cyclist.
Road Cycling – In West Virginia, beautiful scenery lies around every bend in the road. Perhaps that is what makes it an ideal cycling destination. The mountains provide challenging climbs and scenic rides while the valleys and farmlands make for ideal touring. Many races throughout the year offer great opportunities to experience the best rides.
Mountain Biking – According to Yevuta, West Virginia has been hailed as a world class destination for mountain biking enthusiasts due to the abundance of trails, beautiful scenery, and variety of terrain. From the miles of trails traversing the 900,000 acres of the Monongahela National Forest to the 76 miles of the Greenbrier River Trail, a world of mountain biking excitement is waiting in West Virginia.
In New Martinsville, there is a local bike riding club that meets every Thursday at 5:30 p.m. at Baristas and when they are done a few of them get together and play some Euchre. They also meet every Saturday at 12:30 p.m. and ride. It doesn’t matter if you are young or old; an avid rider; or just a novice, they just like to get together and ride around the beautiful surrounding areas.
Riding a bicycle to school or to the park can also be enjoyable for a child, but it involves a little more skill than walking. Before the child begins riding to school, take time to practice riding skills in a safe place with no traffic, like an empty parking lot, or down at the New Martinsville Hydro bike path or out at the Wetzel County 4H Camp Grounds.
Children should work on important skills such as starting and stopping, riding in a straight line, looking over their shoulders, and signaling to vehicles. The better children are at riding, the less likely they are to crash. The New Martinsville Parks and Recreation utilizes their Safety Town for children ages four to six in June every year to show the children the importance of how to ride a bike in a town atmosphere and the knowledge of the laws.
Your child should only use a bicycle that is the right size, not one that is too big or too small. One of the smartest things your child can do to stay safe on a bicycle is wear a helmet. If your child falls or crashes, a helmet is the best protection against head and brain injury. A helmet is most effective when it fits properly; it should fit low on your child’s forehead, just two fingers above the eyebrow. Your child should be able to look up and see the helmet, otherwise its too far back. Your child should dress to be visible to motorists at all times of the day.
Just like pedestrians, bicyclists are most easily seen when they wear bright-colored clothing. Riding at night can be dangerous. If your child has to ride at night, you or a responsible adult should ride along. Put a white light on the front of the bicycle and a red reflector on the back to make it easier for drivers to see your child’s bicycle at night.
Your children should always make sure their bicycles are ready to go. Before every ride, they should check the:
*Air in their tires,
Remind your child that a bicycle is a vehicle, not a toy. Your child should ride with at least one hand on the handlebars at all time, and with only one rider per seat. Kids need to use their eyes and ears to stay alert, so they should never use headphones or cell phones while riding. Your child should ride on a sidewalk when one is available, or ride in the same direction of traffic if there is no sidewalk. Ride with young children who aren’t familiar with the rules of the road and remind them to be careful around driveways and parked cars. Just like with walking, the safest place for young bicyclists to cross the street is a corner or intersection. Your child should get off the bicycle, look left-right-left, and walk the bicycle across the street when no traffic is coming.
In conclusion, Wetzel-Valley Agencies, in conjunction with Earl Smith, Don Larsen, Nelson Hachem, and the late Bruce Smith, used to put on a bicycle safety course, with patrolmen Smith and Larsen checking out the kids bikes and showing the kids the importance of using safety procedures.