First published in the Fort Collins Coloradoan August 21, 2015
This is my annual appeal to teachers and mentors, including CSU residence hall directors and resident assistants, to remind new student cyclists of critical bicycle safety tips. Help spread the word on these points as they are easily overlooked by newcomers.
A bike lane is another travel lane on the road. A motorist would never drive the wrong way down a travel lane. The same should be true for bike lanes. Never pedal the wrong way in a bike lane, even for half a block. Motorists don’t expect you there and they won’t look for you as they turn onto a street with a bike lane.
Bike lanes are made for the preferential but not exclusive use of cyclists. Motorists should use a bike lane to make a right turn and cyclists should exit the bike lane at certain times. Making a left turn across traffic, for example, is illegal from a bike lane. You should first merge into the adjacent travel lane, take a position in a left turn lane if there is one and make your turn. If you, or your mother for younger cyclists, are not comfortable with this then you should stop to the right and become a pedestrian to cross.
Sidewalk riding is the single biggest cause of bike/car crashes in Fort Collins. This happens when a cyclist is riding against traffic on a sidewalk and rides out unexpectedly into the street either at an intersection or a driveway without stopping. Motorists aren’t expecting you here and they aren’t watching for you. You are much safer riding with traffic in the bike lane or on the right hand side of the road where motorists expect you. Although it is legal for you to pedal across an intersection with a walk light it is much safer for you to stop and become a pedestrian in this situation. In short, riding on the sidewalk, contrary to what you might believe is very dangerous.
Sun blindness: Some of our most serious bike/car crashes in Fort Collins have occurred when the sun blinds a motorist unexpectedly. The next two months are the worst time of year for this since the street pattern in Fort Collins means that eastbound motorists are blinded by sunrise when students are going to school and westbound motorists can be blinded at sunset when cyclists are out for an evening ride. Being aware of this danger can help keep you safe. If you see a long shadow pointing in front of you drivers of oncoming cars may not even see you. Watch out for cars turning in front of you in this situation. If a long shadow is behind you and you have the sun in your eyes motorists coming from behind may not see you. If possible avoid traveling our east-west streets within thirty minutes before sunset or after sunrise. Use tree-lined streets where the sun is not likely to blind drivers, stick to bike paths or use sidewalks to avoid this danger.