For years, efforts to make bicycling safer in and around the city focused on significant growth of the Rivergreenway and other trails, offering cyclists off-road paths. The city’s latest move concerning bicycling on the streets, though welcome, should be accompanied by educational efforts and more bicycle lanes.
Mayor Tom Henry proposed new language in the City Code regulating how motorists are to share the road with bicycles after several months of meetings involving representatives of police, the trails and other government offices.
The City Council will discuss the changes Tuesday.
Most of the new rules are common-sense guidelines, including:
•Motorists coming out of an alley must yield to all crossing traffic, including bicyclists.
•Drivers turning right in front of a bicyclist must first make sure their vehicle has passed the bicycle and is safely clear.
•When turning left, motorists must yield to any bicyclist approaching from the opposite direction.
•A driver passing a bike must leave at least 3 feet between the vehicle and the bike until safely past the bicycle.
•Vehicles must yield to a bicycle operating in a bike lane.
•Motorists should yield to moving traffic – including bicycles – before opening their door to exit or enter their vehicle.
•Bicyclists riding on sidewalks must yield to all pedestrians and clearly state that they are passing someone who is walking.
Current law prohibits bicycles on sidewalks in business districts. Though some bicyclists treat sidewalks as just another trail – official trails follow some sidewalks – council members should consider whether bicycles should be permitted where there is heavy pedestrian traffic.
Undoubtedly, riding will be safer if drivers and bicyclists follow these rules – ones they should already be following. Any effort city officials and bicycling advocates can make to frequently remind both motorists and cyclists of these rules will help.
Still, keeping cars and bikes apart is the safest method, and the city could use more bicycle lanes such as those on Wayne and Berry streets.
The city has already taken another step forward by placing decorative bicycle racks through much of downtown and beyond, another element of a bicycle-friendly community. More will be added to streets, trails and parks under IPFW’s “Sculpture with Purpose” project, which will pay artists to create sculptures that will be used as bike racks.
Officials are also right to delete existing law that states “The City Board of Public Safety encourages residents to license their bicycles with the city.” Police, under current law, are supposed to inspect bicycles upon registration – an archaic requirement considering vehicles are no longer subject to mandatory inspections.
Bicycling is a great form of exercise enjoyed by many and is increasingly a practical form of transportation. City leaders should continue to seek ways to make it safer.