Bike riders get new protections from motorists
There is an old saying that goes, “When I am driving, I hate pedestrians. When I am walking, I hate drivers. But no matter the mode of transportation, I hate bicyclists.”
Bicycle culture has gained popularity in Reno and nationwide as the economy has suffered and gas prices have increased. Avid bicycle-riders do so for many reasons, including health and environment. They are well intentioned, and they have a point. Still, it seems as though automotive culture has a tough time sharing the road.
The key problem that prevents cyclists from merging seamlessly with the rest of traffic is that public roads were not built with them in mind, and, even now, few accommodate them with designated bicycle lanes. Because cyclists are prohibited from riding on the sidewalk, they have to ride in the street with cars, where they slow down traffic and place themselves in danger.
Two laws passed by the Nevada Legislature earlier this year to increase protection of bicycle riders went into effect in October. One requires motorists to leave at least three feet between the vehicle and cyclist when passing. The other increases consequences for motorists who hit cyclists.
Senate Bill 248 requires drivers to move into the left lane when passing a cyclist or, when it is not safe or possible to do so, give at least three feet of space between themselves and the bicycle. And any motorist who hits a cyclist who is properly observing traffic laws will be charged with reckless driving, which could cause them to lose their driver’s license or to endure other penalties.
Though the laws are necessary steps to take toward creating better coexistence between the bicycle world and the motorized world, many cyclists feel as though much more change needs to be made.
“I think these are really good symbolic steps, but we’ll have to wait to see what the actual implementation looks like,” said Jeff Mitchell, a local cyclist and employee at the Reno Bike Project. “Things are getting better, but it’s never enough.”
Though the regional government is working well with cyclists to provide more bike lanes on roads and implement new laws to protect them, Mitchell said that Nevada drivers still have a long way to come in terms of cooperating with bicyclists.
Many bicycle advocates believe that education is key to achieving that cooperation. Bicyclists need more education about the laws that apply to them, so they can avoid making mistakes that earn them a bad reputation. I suspect that not everyone knows that cyclists are supposed to follow all the same traffic laws as motorists, even stopping at stop signs. And, when they’re following the rules of the road, everyone riding a bicycle on the road should receive all of the same rights as a motorist—there’s a law that outlaws throwing stones, rocks, missile or any “substance” at a bicycle (or any other vehicle).
“I’ve been commuting by bike for about six years,” Mitchell said. “Six years ago, there were hardly any bike lanes at all; there was not any legislation. I remember getting stopped for not having brakes because I was a fixie kid. Reno is getting better.”
All travelers should put aside their road rage and share the road. The state of Nevada must support this by continuing to create bike lanes to make travel by bike safer and more efficient, and to implement new laws that protect everyone who uses a public road.
But, if all else fails, it is still important to remember that you can’t throw missiles at other travelers just because you don’t like them.