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Tuesday, May 28, 2013

5 Simple Rules to Sharing the Roads in NKY

By Pat Lafleur
FortThomasMatters City Beat

Like any Kentucky-grown boy on Memorial Day, I took this long weekend as a chance to be outside as much as possible. For me and -- to my delight -- for many others, this meant riding my bike all over Kenton and Campbell counties. By Saturday evening, I’d lost count at around 50 other people I’d passed on a bike in NKY. This is great.

Alongside increased outdoor activity this weekend, though, Memorial Day often brings with it increased auto traffic, many vehicles hauling boats, trailers, campers, or some other cargo. On top of these new rolling hazards, the increase in auto traffic inevitably yields a proportional increase in hostility from drivers aimed at cyclists.

While cyclist-aimed hostility is not a new phenomenon by any means, I thought I’d take this opportunity to outline what I see as 5 simple rules that cyclists and drivers alike must follow in order to maintain harmony on NKY’s roadways:

1.    Share the road. Whether you’re in NKY or NYC, this one applies. Everywhere. Period. The FTPD website lays out this issue in clear terms:Every person riding a bicycle on a roadway shall be granted all of the rights and shall be subject to all of the duties applicable to the driver of a vehicle by the laws of this state” (City Ordinance 74.01). It is also illegal for anyone over the age of 12 to operate a bicycle on the sidewalk, anywhere (City Ordinance 74.13). For the record: “Get on the sidewalk!” is the most common shout I hear coming from an automobile, while I’m on my bike. According to state law, cyclists simply cannot do that, nor do they have to.

2.    The road we share is a two-way. This is a clarification of Rule #1. Car-drivers should treat bicycles as vehicles just as bicyclists must respect the drivers’ mutual right to use the roads without hindrance. This means everything from looking for roadside debris -- NKY has loads of this -- before passing by a cyclist, to periodically checking behind for oncoming automobiles. It’s simply considerate behavior -- regardless of your vehicle of choice.

3.    Drivers: speak up, but only when absolutely necessary. My experience as a cyclist suggests that there’s something much more satisfying for a driver about honking at cyclists than honking at other drivers. This is almost always because (and understandably so) most drivers don’t know how to predict cyclist road-behavior (something I address below). Let me say right now, though: 90% of the time, honking is superfluous. 

      The person on the bike is exposed to so much more of their surroundings than the average driver, and chances are she already knows you’re there, either through her increased visibility range or the roaring roadside sounds bombarding her ears. Honking simply startles and generates feelings of unwelcome. This also goes for flashing lights. Not productive communication.

4.    Cyclists: Never make speaking up necessary. Most of the on-road aggression directed toward cyclists is a consequence of not making it clear to auto drivers how you are about to maneuver. Following bikes laws makes your behavior on the road as a cyclist much more predictable and thereby much less threatening to auto drivers. In KY, it is the law to:

   Ride with traffic, on the right side shoulder.
   Use hand-signals to indicate maneuvering.
   When riding at night, equip bike with a light that emits 500 ft. ahead and at least 50 ft. behind.
   Ride with a bell or other such device (not a siren) that can deliver sound up to 100 feet.
   Never ride more than 2 abreast, so as not to impede flow of auto traffic.

5.    They’re called roads: not auto-roads and not bike-roads. The best way to harbor more patience for those using the road with a different type of vehicle than you: reconsider how you define “road.” Be aware that there are alternatives to how you chose to commute, and those alternatives come with different capabilities and restrictions. Those differences include, among others: speed, maneuverability, and visibility. At the end of the day, the road is there for all of us to use. Being ready to accommodate those alternatives is crucial to a harmonious road.


  1. I'm not hostile to cyclists by any means and love what you've posted, but I'd like to add something to #4

    Cyclists, please obey all traffic signs and signals. They apply to you, too.

    Remember that drivers who are at a red light and turning right are looking for traffic on their left -- this is NOT the opportunity for you to sneak up on the driver's right side and try to make a right. You couldn't do it in a car... don't do it on a bike.

    Please, do not run stop signs or red lights.

    I have no more desire to be responsible for the death of a fellow human being that you, the cyclist, have to be dead. I think a lot of anger at cyclists stems from this fear of hurting someone.

  2. Great tips. Having grown up in cyclist friendly Northern California I was surprised with the level of unprovoked roadrage shown by alot of drivers in this area. Awareness and understanding by all road users is key. Would also be nice to see a 3' law. Kentucky driver's manual states "Pass a cyclist only when it can be done safely, and give ample room (3 feet) between your car and the cyclist. ... Give the cyclist extra room if your vehicle has extended outside review mirrors."

  3. Aren't cyclists supposed to also follow the same rules of the road as motorists? They should also be stopping at stop signs, traffic lights, and cross walks, right? I don't see that happen and that irritates me. I am always very cautious around all bike riders - young and old, hard core and leisurely riders, but nothing irritates me more than when I've been careful when passing someone and have come to a stop sign only to have the cyclist come up and blow through it to pass me again. I've also been ready to cross at one of the crosswalks in town only to have a group of riders blow by me and my kids without stopping. (Cars do that as well - people really need to remember that pedestrians have the right of way!).

  4. Yes, absolutely to all the comments regarding traffic signals!

    I should have written (and don't know why I didn't!) cyclists should employ and follow all types of traffic signal. This goes into the idea of cyclists engaging in predictable behavior.

    Thanks for the comments, all!

  5. I am a bicyclist myself, but do agree with the above posters that the behavior of some bikers give us all a bad name. Sharing the road goes both ways, and it also means bikers are responsible for observing the same rules as motorists. Many times I've observed bikers blowing through stop signs, and especially with groups, preventing motorists from passing by hogging the road.

  6. Another call for cyclists to obey stop lights and stop signs. Fact is I observe the great majority of cyclists do not do this.

  7. Down on route 8 with relatively narrow lanes and higher speeds, I do think this discussion is a two way street (literally and figuratively). This road has even more risk than some others with speed limits up to 55 in the outlying area. While I see most bikers there using rear view helmet mounted mirrors and staying to the right, there are a few that don't. Plus, I hit the occasional group of cyclists who refuse to move single file when a vehicle approaches from behind. So, if cyclists want respect, they need to show it too and be particularly careful on such roads.

  8. I would like to see addressed the increased use of "mopeds" -esp. being driven by younger people not of age to have a driver's license. There are state laws prohibiting there use by persons under the age of 16, driving on roads with a speed limit of 30 mph or more etc. I have seen too many "near miss" accidents with "young" drivers of these riding another passenger too!

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