Bicycling right

23 Jul 2008 | 375th Airlift Wing Safety Office

Does having front, back, pedal and wheel reflectors on a bike make it safe for night riding? Is riding a bike facing traffic, like a pedestrian walks, the safest position? Is riding on sidewalks the best way to avoid accidents? Do only children need to wear helmets when riding a bike? 

The answer to all of these questions, contrary to popular belief, is no. These actions not only endanger cyclists, but they are illegal or against regulations. 

Reflectors alone don't keep riders safe at night because they don't protect riders on the side. Most car-bike collisions occur at intersections. Reflectors can't work if headlights do not illuminate them. By the time a car's headlights illuminate a bike's wheel reflectors, it is too late to stop a collision. Drivers need to see a light to know that a bicycle is coming. Without a light, bicycles are virtually invisible in the most dangerous situations. Bicycles must be equipped with a lamp that emits a white light visible from a distance of 500 feet and a red reflector on the rear visible from all directions up to 300 feet. A red light, or a red blinking light, visible from 500 feet may be used in addition to the reflector. The bicycle still must have the rear reflector. 

Some cyclists ride facing traffic because they fear getting hit from behind or mistakenly believe cyclists should behave like pedestrians. In fact, very few car-bike collisions (about 10 percent) are caused by cars overtaking bicyclists. Wrong way cyclists cause many car-bike collisions. Motor vehicle drivers making right turns look left. They do not expect traffic coming from the right, so they turn directly into a wrong way cyclist. In addition, when a legal cyclist meets a wrong way cyclist on a busy road, there are no rules about who goes where. Most state vehicle codes require a cyclist to ride as far right as is practical except when passing, preparing for a left turn, or to avoid certain hazardous or unsafe conditions. 

Riding on the sidewalk is illegal in most states. Generally, cyclists and pedestrians don't mix well. And again, motorists pulling out of side streets or driveways are not looking for cyclists on the sidewalk. A study has shown that cyclists riding on the sidewalk are about twice as likely to have an accident as cyclists riding on the roadway. 

All cyclists riding on base are required to wear American National Standards Institute and Snell approved helmets. This includes employees and visitors, military and civilian.

Marine Corps Base Hawaii