A bicyclist is ready to cross the street at a busy corner near the Taylorsville Redwood Campus. Shoulders are tense and eyes trained on every angle of the road. Just barely out of sight he grips his handlebars in anxiety, knowing that once the light turns he’ll have to book it in order to make it across the lengthy and often dangerous crosswalk.
Meanwhile a motorist yells at him from his left hand side, shouting futilely to no one but his interior windshield for the bicyclist to move back so that he can make a right-hand turn. The bicyclist has right of way, of course, and understandably desires to be in the optimal position to head out. So who is not being courteous, the cyclist or the driver?
As Salt Lake Community College prepares for the upcoming spring and summer months, the use of alternative transportation is going to increase. With that comes the importance of bicycle, skateboard and scooter courtesy as well as the idea of environmental awareness, meaning not just civility on roads and sidewalks, but the safety benefits of knowing exactly what is going on around you. Sometimes that means allowing the other person to go first.
“Bicycles on campus, while they are on the roadways, have to abide by all the laws and rules, as they are a vehicle themselves,” said Sergeant Sheldon Riches of the Utah Highway Patrol. “They need to use hand signals and they can’t just drop in the middle of traffic. If they are not on the roadways then they need to be courteous to the pedestrians.”
Standard biking hand signals include the left arm straight out for a left hand turn, the left hand turned up into an ‘L’ shape or the right hand straight out for a right hand turn and the left arm down at an angle or a downward ‘L’ shape for stopping.
“When cyclists follow traffic laws they travel in a predictable fashion, clearly communicating their intentions to other road users,” states the Utah Bicycle Guide, courtesy of the Utah Department of Transportation.
- Ride with the traffic flow and as far right as conditions safely allow.
- Occupy turn lanes when available
- Obey all traffic signals including stop signs and lights.
- Have at least one hand in control of your bicycle at all times.
- Use bike lanes whenever possible.
- Yield the right-of-way to pedestrians.
When not on the road itself but rather the sidewalk, as is often the case on campus, a bike is to a car as a pedestrian is to a bike. The same goes for skateboards, longboards and scooters. When it comes down to it, Sergeant Riches said safety boils down to communication.
“When you pass somebody, say well in advance, ‘on your left,’” he said.
Other acts of courtesy can be things such as having a bike bell or horn, or slowing down in crowds. Taking the unbeaten path isn’t a bad idea, nor is walking one’s two or four-wheeled ‘vehicle’ through tight-knit groups of students. When riding at night have both lights and reflectors attached to your bike while also wearing reflective clothing. Leave the headphones off.
In short, the best way to avoid getting hurt or hurting others is simply to obey all traffic laws and in general be courteous and considerate of fellow students and drivers. If you want to be seen and safe then wear bright or reflective colors. Think of others before yourself, be clear in your directions and be pleasant and patient when it comes to getting there first versus getting there safely.
“We’re on a college campus,” Sergeant Riches said. “We’re adults. We’re not here on a playground. That’s basically what it is.”
For more information, see the Utah Bicycle Commuter Guide at www.udot.utah.gov