Drivers encouraged to watch out and make room for bikes on roadways
Biking is a popular activity in Wisconsin. According to the Wisconsin DNR, Wisconsin “ranks as one of America’s best places to bike.” The state has many trails that bikers can use. For instance, the Bannerman Trail in Waushara County is a seven-mile trail open for bicyclists. Biking on the road is also very popular. The Waushara County Parks Department offers a guide of different bike routes across the county. The Wisconsin Department of Transportation (DOT) also offers a bicycle map for the county. This map includes the conditions of the roads. The number of bicyclists on the road is expected to increase through the summer months. We must remember the rules of the road in order to ensure the safety of bicyclists, motorists, and pedestrians.
The Wisconsin DOT reports that, in 2016, 918 crashes involved bicyclists. The DOT also concluded that a bicyclist was injured or killed every 10.2 hours. Fortunately, these crashes can often be prevented. Practicing proper bicycle safety saves lives.
For motorists, it is important to remember that bicycles are legally recognized as vehicles in Wisconsin. Wisconsin State Statues state that a bicyclist has all of the rights and duties that the operator of a vehicle has. This means that bicyclists are entitled to use the road as much as a motorist. When passing a bicyclist on the road, a motorist is required to leave a safe distance between the vehicle and the bicycle. By law, this safe distance must be no less than three feet. A motorist should always remember to be attentive. Motorists should refrain from honking their horns, as this may distract bicyclists.
Crashes between motorists and bicyclists are most likely to occur in three scenarios:
A motorist turns left as a bicyclist approaches in the opposite lane. This is the most common type of crash. This can be especially dangerous if the motorist is attempted to gauge the speed of the bicyclist. The bicyclist may be going faster than it seems. It is always better to wait to turn until the bicyclist has passed. Bicyclists in the opposite lane are also harder to see. Motorists should take care to be extra attentive.
A motorist turns right on a red light and/or fails to check for a bicyclist when turning right.
A motorist opens their car door, causing a crash. By law, the motorist must take precaution to ensure opening their car door will not endanger another person or vehicle.
Bicyclists are also responsible for practicing proper bicycle safety. As operators of vehicles, bicyclists should practice defensive driving, similar to a motorist. A bicyclist should be aware of all potential dangers and distractions on the roadway. They should also follow all rules of the road. For example, this means that a bicyclist should observe all stop signs. A bicyclist should travel in the same direction as traffic. Similar to motorists, a bicyclist should allow a safe distance between the bicycle and a vehicle. Remember that, by law, this is no less than three feet of space.
A bicyclist should utilize hand signals. To prevent injury, a bicyclist should always wear a helmet. The Wisconsin DOT reports that wearing a helmet can eliminate up to 85 percent of head injuries when crashes occur. A bicyclist should bike predictably and should maintain a straight path. Finally, a bicyclist should ensure their bicycle is read for the road. For example, this means that the tires are filled and that the brakes work. A bicyclist should fully inspect their bicycle before riding it.
The Waushara County Health Department hopes that you enjoy biking this summer. Waushara County offers a large variety of beautiful places to bike. They encourage drivers and bikers to be responsible, following the law and rules of the road.