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8:32 AM Sat, Nov. 17th

Talk of the Town: Drivers, cyclists must obey rules

Exactly one year and four months ago I was in the same position I am now.

This past year four members of the Prescott City Council voted against adding striped bike lanes on Sixth Street as part of the new three-lane configuration. This year four council members voted against adding bike lanes on East Gurley Street (as part of a federal grant application proposal that also included sidewalk improvements, landscaped medians, trash cans, and benches).

So, just as I felt compelled to do last year, in the name of safety and civility on our community's streets, I again encourage us all to review Arizona's laws regarding vehicles and bicycles sharing the road. The following is, word for word, the same information I presented in a "Talk of the Town" piece a year ago. I believe it is still extremely relevant.

The basic rule of thumb is that bicyclists should act and be treated as slow-moving vehicles. As ADOT states in their brochure Share the Road, "Bikes and Cars: Same roads, same rules, same rights and responsibilities." This means bicyclists will be traveling in the lane that takes them in the direction they want to go. I think many motorists assume a bicyclist will stay to the far right at all times. Not so if the bicyclist needs to turn left or is continuing straight, on the left side next to a right turn only lane.

The vast majority of the roads in Prescott do not have bike lanes. By my calculations, eight streets have striped bike lanes. That means bicycles often must share travel lanes with automobiles. In many cases, the curb lane is wide enough that this doesn't present a problem.

What motorists must remember is to keep at least three feet (preferably five feet) between their car and the bicyclist (Arizona Revised Statute 28-735). When the lane does not allow bikes and cars to travel side by side with three feet between, a bicycle is allowed - and encouraged - to "take the lane" (ARS 28-815) in order to remain visible and safe. This applies to several of our busiest streets, including Gurley and Sheldon.

Some believe that bicyclists are supposed to be on the sidewalks; this is against local city code, not to mention being dangerous for pedestrians.

Both bicyclists and motorists should signal their intentions to turn so as to avoid collisions. Motorists should not speed up in order to overtake and turn right in front of a bicyclist. Remember: the bicycle is a slow-moving vehicle. It will take only a couple seconds longer to stay behind and wait your turn. Again, I quote ADOT's Share the Road brochure: "Show respect for all users of the road, and you'll get respect back as a result."

The preference of most bicyclists - and motorists - is to have a striped bike lane, because this leaves no question to where everyone should be on the road in order to stay safe. Alas, whether Prescott increases the number of bike lanes is unclear - despite recommendations of local traffic engineers and the city's General and Bicycle/Pedestrian Master Plans.

Prescott Alternative Transportation (PAT) now has on staff a League of American Bicyclists-certified instructor. This means we now can offer education courses so that both bicyclists and motorists can gain the skills necessary to share the road safely. PAT anticipates regularly offering these courses as early as this fall. I recommend these courses to anyone who travels on our roadways; it could go a long way towards us all 'just getting along'.

Lisa Barnes is executive director of Prescott Alternative Transportation. Her e-mail is lisa@prescottbikeped.org.