By Dawn Jacobson, MA, LAT, NASM-PES, CES
Athletic Trainer, Black River Memorial Hospital
Jackson in Action Executive Committee Member
Summer is quickly approaching, bringing with it endless opportunities for physical activity in Jackson County. As a newcomer to the area, I am impressed by all that Jackson County has to offer in the area of physical activity, from the beautiful lakes and trails to the wide range of community events. I encourage you to take some time to explore the Jackson in Action website further, to learn more about the many opportunities for physical activity in our area. (www.jacksoninaction.org)
Throughout Wisconsin and Jackson County, bicycling is a popular activity for all ages. The state of Wisconsin is known for its many trails and endless paved country roads. As both visitors and locals explore the county roadways by bicycle, it is important for motorists and cyclists to be aware and share the road to keep everyone safe. Under Wisconsin law, bicycles are vehicles, and their operators have the same rights and responsibilities as motorists. The responsibility goes both ways: Motorists and cyclists are equally responsible for sharing the road. As an avid bicyclist, safety for bicyclists is an area near and dear to my heart. When both bicyclists and motorists treat each other with respect and follow the applicable rules, bicycling can be a safe activity for everyone involved. Whether you are a motorist or a bicyclist, a review of the following information can help make Jackson County a safer place for bicyclists to enjoy.
Bicycles may be legally used on any road in Wisconsin except interstates, expressways and controlled access highways. Regardless if there is a bike path, sidewalk, or even a bike lane, the bicyclist still has a right to choose the road. Why might a bicyclist make this choice? Oftentimes bike lanes or sidewalks are covered with sand, rocks, or broken glass, have large cracks or potholes, or are busy with pedestrian traffic. Regardless of whether or not a motorist believes a bicyclist should be on the road, it is important to remember that legally, the bicyclist has a right to be there.
Bicyclists are supposed to ride as far to the right as practicable, which means safe and reasonable. However, many instances exist in which it is not safe or reasonable to ride on the far right. For example, bicyclists are required to give parked cars at least three feet of space when passing. Bicyclists may ride even further from a parked car to avoid being hit by an opening car door. Other times, sewer grates, rumble strips, rocks and sand, or other obstacles may bring a bicyclist further into the roadway.
Bicyclists are permitted to ride in the left lane or the left side of a lane when preparing to make a left-hand turn. This prevents a bicyclist from turning across several lanes of traffic, which would be an increased hazard. Bicyclists should motion with an appropriate left turn signal prior to crossing lanes and making a left-hand turn.
Give at least three feet when passing. Wisconsin law requires motorists to leave a clearance of at least three feet when passing a bicyclist. If the lane is too narrow to do this without crossing into incoming traffic, the motorist must slow down and wait to pass until it is safe. The same three feet standard applies to bicyclists passing parked cars or slower moving vehicles. (Picture Source: http://bike.emory.edu)
Look before you turn to prevent the most common car-bike collisions. (1) When turning left in front of an oncoming bike, a motorist should yield the right-of-way. Remember, the oncoming bike should be treated the same as an oncoming car. Be careful not to underestimate the speed of the oncoming bike. Bicyclists may reach up to 40mph riding down a hill. (2) When turning right a motorist should wait for a straight-moving bicycle to pass before turning. Do not cross in front of an oncoming bicyclist, just as you would not cross in front of an oncoming car.
Bicyclists should always ride in the same direction as traffic and obey all traffic laws. This includes stopping at all stop signs and traffic lights. Bicyclists – if you expect motorists to follow the rules, then you need to as well! A few individuals not following the rules can leave motorists with a bad impression of all bicyclists. Give the same respect to motorists as you expect in return.
The best thing bicyclists can do to protect themselves is be predictable! Bicyclists should make it obvious to motorists where they intend to go. Use appropriate turn signals and gestures to assure that your actions are clear. If you are in doubt that a motorist is aware of your actions, be safe and give the motorist the right away. Proving your point is not worth putting yourself in danger.
Always wear a bicycle helmet, even on short rides. I have heard too many stories of individuals who were tragically injured while just biking a few blocks from home without a helmet. Helmets are your best prevention against serious head injury. Wear bright clothing at all times, to be more visible to motorists. Today’s motorists have many distractions; do your best to make yourself stick out!
As someone who will be spending a lot of time this summer on the roads as both a motorist and a cyclist, I thank you in advance for doing your part in keeping Jackson County’s roadways safe for all users. Whether you choose to bike, kayak, swim, run, walk, or another physical activity pursuit this summer, let’s take advantage of all that Jackson County has to offer.
Pace & Pedal Event May 30
Dust off your bicycle and join the Jackson in Action team for the second annual Pace & Pedal event at Lake Wazee on Saturday May 30, 2015. Options include a 5.5 Mile Trail Run / 10 Mile Bike, 2.7 Mile Fun Run/Walk or a 1.1 Mile Youth Race. More information: http://www.brmh.net/paceandpedal/
Wisconsin Bike Fed – Share and Be Aware Resources
Wisconsin Department of Transportation – Rules for Riding Bicycles on the Road http://www.dot.wisconsin.gov/safety/vehicle/bicycle/rules.htm
For Website only: Wisconsin Bike Fed and Wisconsin Department of Transportation PSA – Can this be embedded on our webpage? https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FpPblnsoBkw#action=share )
Jackson in Action - is a Jackson County-based healthy living community coalition. For more information and to learn about upcoming active lifestyle events, visit www.jacksoninaction.org