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.
• NEVER RIDE ON THE SIDEWALK.
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.