Talk of the Town: Lack of bike lanes makes safety trickier
This is a unique moment in time to talk about bicycles on our roadways.
Not only are we in the midst of Prescott's annual celebration of Bike Month (now through May 16; see www.prescottbikeped.org or call 708-0911), but the Prescott City Council on Tuesday concluded a week-long debate on how to restripe Sixth Street by deciding not to include bike lanes in the new three-lane configuration.
That compels me to to ensure the safety - and civility - of everyone on the road with a review of the laws regarding bicycle traffic.
The basic rule of thumb is bicyclists should act as slow-moving vehicles, and motorists should treat them as such. ADOT states in its brochure "Share the Road," "Bikes and Cars: Same roads, same rules, same rights and responsibilities."
That means bicyclists will be traveling in the lane that takes them in the direction they want to go. 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 to the left of 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 (though one councilmember claims "this town is full of 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.
Motorists must remember to keep at least three 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, the law allows and encourages a bicycle to "take the lane" (ARS 28-815) to remain visible and safe. This applies to several of our busiest streets, including Gurley and Sheldon.
Some people 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 they avoid collisions. Motorists should not speed up 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 about where everyone should be on the road to stay safe. Whether Prescott will increase the number of bike lanes remains unclear, despite recommendations of traffic engineers and the City's General and Bicycle/Pedestrian Master Plan.
Several opportunities coming up as part of Bike Month to learn more about, and practice the skills
necessary to riding a bicycle in traffic. On Sundays - April 27, May 4 and May 11 at 2 p.m. - John Stryker, owner of Bikesmith, will lead presentations and practice rides for bicyclists aged junior high and older. A League of American Bicyclists-certified Road 1 Course will take place May 3 at Yavapai College. This is an excellent way to gain confidence and understand rules of the road.
I recommend these opportunities for both bicyclists and motorists; it could go a long way toward us all "just getting along."
Lisa Barnes is executive director of Prescott Alternative Transportation. Her e-mail is lisa@prescottbike ped.org.