Making Utica-Rome More Bike Friendly
Each year, Bicycling magazine rolls out its list of the 50 "Most Bike-Friendly Cities in America." The Utica-Rome metropolitan area has never made the list, but here are some simple things you can do to help change that, whether you sit behind a steering wheel or a pair of handlebars.
First and foremost, no "drivers vs. bikers" finger-pointing. People on both sides are to blame. So we'll start off with some things drivers can improve upon, then a few things bicyclists can do better, and finally, how lawmakers can improve our area's bike-friendliness.
Advice for Drivers
Bikes CAN use the road. Many drivers think bikes belong on the sidewalk, but the DMV says, "bicyclists and skaters have the legal right to share the road on most public highways." Give bikers some space when you can.
Use caution at intersections. Remember that bikes can and should use turn lanes just like cars. If you're turning right, make sure you won't be turning into the path of a bike coming up in the shoulder behind you.
Parallel parking reminder. Many bikers have stories of being "doored" by drivers getting out of their car after parallel parking. Some of these crashes have caused serious injuries which require months of recovery time. Always check your rear-view mirrors before you open your door.
Advice for Bicyclists
Wear a Helmet! Almost every day, I see people biking without helmets. NYS law requires helmets for bikers under 14. Parents can be fined $50 for kids riding without helmets, but a decent helmet can cost less than half that much. For adults, helmets are optional but frankly, it's stupid to ride without one. Wearing a helmet has saved me from serious injury (or worse) on a couple of occasions.
Use the Road, Not the Sidewalk. Some bikers think the sidewalk is safer, but it's actually more dangerous! Not only do you risk hitting pedestrians, but you're less visible to drivers. And be sure to ride on the right side of the road, with traffic -- not on the left, against traffic.
Obey Traffic Signals. Stop at stop signs and red lights, just like cars. Use hand signals so drivers know when you're planning to turn. When drivers can anticipate your actions, the roads are much safer for everyone.
Riding in the dark? Just like cars, NYS law requires bicyclists to use headlights and taillights, starting from one hour before sunset until one hour after sunrise. Even if you've got cat-like night vision, lights make it easier for drivers to see you. You can find head/tail light sets for as little as $20, and they can be installed in mere minutes.
When bikers and drivers are aware of each other and obey the rules of the road, we can hopefully increase the "bike-friendliness" of the region and make that top 50 list, just like Rochester did!
- Peter Naughton, WLZW