In hopes of saving a little gas money this summer, people are using bikes as a more common mode of transportation. But with the increased number of bicycles around, it's important for motorists and cyclists alike to be aware of the rules of the road.
"A lot of the problems with sharing the roadway are based on simple education," said Art Doyle, owner of Art Doyle's Spokes & Pedals bicycle shop on Second Street in Hudson.
With 37 years of cycling under his belt, it's safe to say Doyle knows a thing or two about bike safety. He said one of the most important things to remember is that cyclists must abide by nearly all the same road rules motorists do.
Over the years Doyle has been involved with programs and events to promote bike education. He said it's common for kids to hop on their bikes when they're young and never learn about proper safety rules and laws.
Mark Crimmins, a Hudson police and school liaison officer, has worked on bike safety with many students, primarily elementary ages. He said over the last six to seven years they've been making progress because it seems kids' knowledge has been increasing. Recently during safety sessions about 97 percent of younger students said they own a helmet.
Cyclists can be issued tickets for not following road rules, but Crimmins said they are really focused on educating right now. One day the law might be stricter for cyclists, but he said they want to give them a chance to learn what the rules are first.
Crimmins said rules that are often broken include cyclists not using hand signals, not obeying stop signs and large groups failing to ride one or two cyclists wide.
Doyle also sees rules broken frequently. Many bike/car accidents occur when cyclists ride against traffic, said Doyle. Bikes are considered vehicles and are supposed to ride with the flow of traffic; this is a common misconception that can cause serious accidents.
"Safety is based on predictability," said Doyle. "If we can predict what bikes and cars are going to do it reduces the chance of an accident."
Both Doyle and Crimmins said they've noticed more bikers in Hudson this summer, probably due to rising gas prices. The new trend is to use bikes for practical, everyday needs like going to the store or library. An item Doyle sells in his store is a detachable carrier for bikes about the size of a grocery bag. It's very convenient for bikers.
But Doyle said having more bikes on the road should not cause any problems as long as everyone is thoughtful and considerate.
"Motorists should be really happy to see someone on a bike because it reduces gas consumption," said Doyle. "That's good for the motorists!"
There are other organizations and events promoting bike education in the area. Hudson Hospital recently hosted a "bike rodeo" seminar this summer. The plan is to have it every year around the end of May.
More information is available online through the Wisconsin Bike Federation, http://bfw.org; and biking laws are posted by the Wisconsin Department of Transportation at http://dot.state.wi.us. River Valley Trails, a local bike advocacy group, also has a Web site, www.rivervalleytrails.org.
Doyle said biking organizations are under funded and can't afford many campaigns. But events do take place throughout the year so it's important to keep your eyes open for announcements around town -- there are opportunities to become educated about bike safety.
"Remember that you have to be safe on there because you don't have a lot of protection," said Crimmins. "Be conscious about what you're doing and be aware of everything around you."
Bicycle Safety Checklist
Whether you ride bike everyday or not, keep these safety tips in mind every time you hit the pedals.
Bicycles must drive like other vehicles if they are to be taken seriously by motorists.
Always wear a sturdy helmet that fits properly. Never wear a headphone while riding a bike.
Motorists aren't looking for bicyclists riding on the wrong side of the road. Ride with the flow of traffic, not against it; this is a law.
Hand signals tell motorists and pedestrians what you intend to do. Signal as a matter of law, of courtesy, and of self-protection.
Don't ride out to the curb between parked cars unless they are far apart. Motorists may not see you when you try to move back into traffic.
Motorists may not look for or see a bicycle passing on the right.
Assume that other drivers don't see you until you are sure that they do.
Learn to look back over your shoulder without losing your balance or swerving. Some riders use rear-view mirrors.
In rain wear a poncho or waterproof suit. Dress in layers so you can adjust to temperature changes. Wear bright colored clothing.
Adjust your bike to fit you and keep it working properly. Check brakes and tires regularly. Routine maintenance is simple and you can learn to do it yourself.