Authorities and cycling enthusiasts have a number of safety tips for local cyclists and drivers when using the roads when the weather warms up.
the Crescent News spoke with Michelle Manley, a bike patroller, from the Defiance Police Department about cyclist-driver interactions on the road, as well as members of Defiance Cycling, a local cycling group that meets at Defiance’s Triangle Park.
In Defiance, an average of one to two accidents per year involving a motor vehicle, according to Manley.
When asked if there was an increase in such accidents during the summer months, she said yes.
One observed problem, she explained, is that cyclists do not obey the rules of the road and do not stop at signs or lights and that motorists do not consider or see them. Another thing that can happen is a rider getting stuck behind a slow bike and becoming frustrated and driving less safely, Manley said.
When asked what motorists should know about interacting with cyclists on the road, she said motorists should remember that bicycles are considered motor vehicles and have the same rights and are permitted on the road. She noted that cyclists should ride in the same direction as traffic and not against it.
Riders are also encouraged to wear helmets – especially for children – and shiny or reflective clothing. Bikes must also have a white light at the front and a red light at the back. A safety prep tip that Manley called the ABC’s – check the air in the tires, check the brakes are working properly, and make sure the chain isn’t loose.
Cyclists should also use a bike defensively and have an exit plan to get off the road in the event of an accident, Manley explained.
Members of Defiance Cycling also shared their thoughts on the sport as well as safety measures.
“It’s a great way to exercise and get some fresh air,” Lindsay Long said. “It’s great for mental health. Also, I met a lot of new people through cycling.
Another member of the group, James Brehler, said: “I mainly ride for exercise and training for the Napoleon Duathlon which I am taking part in. But I also ride to be with friends and enjoy the beautiful countryside around Defiance…. A few years ago one of our cars died, so I used my bike to get to and from work when I didn’t feel like walking.
Asked about safety, he said: “I recommend using a red strobe light on the back and a white strobe light on the front, even during the day. It simply improves the visibility of the cyclist for drivers and pedestrians. I would also highly recommend using a modern bike helmet…and if you ever crash with a helmet, replace the helmet with a new one.
His sister, Patti Brehler, advised motorists not to “honk when approaching a cyclist, even if it is a friendly toot. Sometimes that can startle a cyclist and cause them to swerve… (and) In 30 states, including Michigan and Ohio, drivers must pass cyclists with at least three feet of space.
Manley also noted that drivers and cyclists should learn hand signals so that cyclists can tell drivers about turns and stops and be aware of their surroundings and not be distracted.
James Brehler added: “I would also add that one of the biggest risks for cyclists is driver distraction. It’s easy to miss seeing a cyclist anyway, but to be distracted by cell phones or even by other occupants (in the car) just makes it worse.
Cycling can have a dangerous side, Long said.
“I had some pretty annoying encounters with motorists,” she explained. “Last summer a lady turned left right in front of me. I had to swerve to miss her…and she knocked me down. I also get run over on bridges sometimes. People try to pass me as “There’s oncoming traffic, leaving inches between us. Most people are great, though.
When asked what drivers should know about cyclists, she concluded: “Know that we cyclists are not deliberately trying to get in your way. Give us plenty of space and pass carefully. Please don’t be aggressive. Imagine that we are one of your relatives when you meet us there. Share the road… I really hope Defiance becomes a better place to ride, walk and run.