Heads up, cyclists: Obey traffic laws

During a recent Ashland Police Department staff meeting, statistics for bicycling citations raised concern. Even with the high volume of bike traffic in Ashland, fewer than 2 percent of all citations were written for bike violations. This is all changing. In an effort to reduce accidents involving cyclists, Ashland police will be monitoring violations of all vehicle laws and issuing more citations.

Unsafe violations like riding the wrong way and failure to stop at stop signs will no longer be ignored by Ashland police. Did you know you cannot legally ride against traffic flow in a bike lane? Cyclists, like motorcyclists, are especially vulnerable to the unintended effects of these unsafe behaviors because they have no metal cocoon protecting them from injury. Even if the cyclist gets away without injury while in violation, others may be put at risk avoiding them.

This emphasis on enforcement is because of the increased number of serious injuries from bicycle crashes and collisions. Chief Holderness wants to see this problem brought under control through education. When an officer issues a citation they do it to teach safe practices.

Under Oregon statutes, bikes are vehicles. The same rules govern a bike driver as a car driver. Going slowly through an intersection is not yielding or stopping under the law, as an example.

A traffic citation in Ashland carries a $200-plus fine. So, while many ride their bikes thinking and acting like pedestrians, the police and the law treat them as vehicle operators. The fines reflect that fact. Bike drivers negotiate for space in an environment that has set rules governing driver interactions. When not driving their bikes as they would their motor vehicles, cyclists endanger themselves and others. The use of traffic citations is a tool to enhance the educational process, by raising your awareness of your cycling behavior.

Ashland has made major strides in making cycling safer, and with planned lane changes and striping along North Main Street this spring, we will be even safer. There are sharrows marking Oak Street helping to delineate the space allowed on the road for cyclists. Road bike routes connect with the Bear Creek Greenway and many of the off-road bike trails are also being connected to this network. This city-wide awareness has earned us a prestigious Bronze Level award with the League of American Bicyclists.

As Ashland plans for and commits more and more resources to bike safety, our education and adherence to Oregon law is a step we can all do to help enhance those safety improvements.

Take some time to educate yourself on how to "drive" your bike, look at the League of American Bicyclists website (www.bikeleague.org), get involved in the community's efforts to make this mode of transport safer and, when you ride, do so legally for your safety and others'.

John Colwell


Share This Story