Safer streets for cars and bikes

Thursday, September 7, 2006

Has anyone else noticed all the teenagers who ride small bikes around Cassville. The teens dart on and off sidewalks and race across streets, and none of them wear helmets. Over the weekend I was driving on Highway 248 when three young bike riders appeared in front of me. One of the boys veered straight across the highway and tumbled into the ditch. I had to slow down to avoid hitting one of the boys who just stopped his bike on the side of the shoulderless highway. I also have encountered several of these riders on residential streets after dark. None of the bikes have reflectors and more often than not the riders are wearing dark clothes. A few times I've had to swerve to avoid hitting one of them when they seem to come out of nowhere in the dark.

Now before you take me for one of those drivers who doesn't want to share the road with cyclists, think again. I think bike riding is one of the greatest sports ever. I know a large number of local residents who ride miles each week to stay in shape. Many of these riders are currently training for the upcoming MS150 bike ride, which raises money for multiple sclerosis research.

These riders ride alone or in groups. They always wear helmets, ride single file and signal when they are getting ready to turn. Few ride at night, but if their ride goes a little long and they find themselves peddling after dark, they are wearing gear with reflective tape or even have a blinking safety lights attached to the rear of the their bike seat. These cyclists deserve our respect and drivers need to learn to lookout for riders and share the road graciously.

On the other hand, drivers should also be aware of the young bike riders who seem to be doing everything in their power to get hit by a car. We would appreciate it if local police officers would make an attempt to warn these riders about bicycle safety. It also might be nice if the school were to host a program on bike safety for students. If you are reading this and you are a parent, please take time to discuss bicycle safety with your child.

Now that we've shared our concerns about the number of out-of-control bike riders we have on our city streets, we want to provide our readers with some bicycle safety tips, which if followed, will make Cassville streets safer for cyclists and drivers alike. The following tips were provided through the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission.

1. Protect your head. Always wear a helmet. Studies show that using a helmet can reduce head injuries by up to 95 percent.

2. See and be seen. Always wear bright colors or reflective stripes.

3. Avoid biking at night.

4. Stay alert. Keep a lookout for obstacles in your path.

5. Go with the flow and ride with the traffic, not against it.

6. Check for traffic. Always be aware of the traffic around you, especially at intersections and driveways.

7. Obey traffic laws. If a cyclist is riding in the road, they must obey the same traffic laws as someone driving in a car.

8. Check your brakes before riding your bike to make sure you can stop quickly.

9. Motorists are urged to use caution and drive more defensively during the hours when youngsters are most likely to be riding bikes, especially before and after school and when the weather is nice and warm.