I live in Dallas, Texas, near a beautiful, yet pungent man-made lake.  People gravitate to this lake to complete their daily ritualistic 9 mile ride around its perimeter.  Sometimes they tackle two or three laps around the lake.  One lap is certainly enough for me.  In fact, the only reason I can imagine myself doing more would be if I was running from the law.  Some are solitary riders.  But most ride in a group.  Like a bicycle gang…or is it a gaggle??  There’s safety in numbers, I suppose.  I think they probably have to ride in a group so they don’t get beat up for wearing those goofy outfits.

Getting to and from the lake is the real challenge.  Death-defying competition with automobiles will certainly make you pedal faster.  My experience is that people in cars are generally annoyed by bicyclists on the road.  Most non-cyclists I speak with that live around this area generally complain about those bicyclists that “Act like they own the road.”  “Why don’t they ride on the sidewalk?”  What they don’t understand is, bicyclists using Dallas streets during a ride must follow all traffic signs. This includes all stop and yield signs and turn signals. All riders in the Dallas area possess the same rights and responsibilities as any motor vehicle drivers. And, bicyclists that do not follow street signs and laws are subject to the same penalties as a motor vehicle driver.  I have met a few bicyclists who were required to take my defensive driving class because they were cited for running a stop sign on their bike.  Before, they didn’t really take traffic laws seriously when pedaling.  Now they certainly do.  If you ride a bicycle, you should check your own city’s bicycle laws.

Here’s the way it works.  A bicycle is a vehicle and a person operating a bicycle has the rights and duties applicable to a driver operating a vehicle.  All laws and signs that regulate the movement of vehicles upon the roadway also apply to bicycles.  Therefore, a bicyclist should obey all traffic laws, signs and signals.  This includes stopping at all stop signs and all stop lights.  And, bicyclists must use hand signals to signal their intent to stop, turn left, or turn right.

Riding down the middle of a busy road maybe isn’t always the right way to go.  It depends.  A person operating a bicycle on a roadway who is moving slower than the other traffic on the roadway shall ride as near as practicable to the right curb or edge of the roadway.  Whereas, a person operating a bicycle on a one-way roadway with two or more marked traffic lanes may ride as near as practicable to the left curb or edge of the roadway.  However, there are exceptions to both of these laws.  And there are certain conditions listed where the law allows bicyclists to take the full lane of travel.

Bicycle helmet safety is another issue.  The Bicycle Helmet Safety Institute reports that over 700 bicyclists died on the roads in 2008.  But Dallas has a city ordinance that bicycle riders must wear helmets at all times. Other areas around Dallas, such as Fort Worth, require only persons under the age of 18 to wear helmets; however, the City of Dallas imposes this law on bicycle riders of all ages.  Again, you’ll have to research what the helmet laws are within your city.

With the price of gas at an all-time high, owning a bicycle is a great option of transporation.  Perhaps not for commuting, but for running nearby errands as well as a good cardio workout.  And, to all of you who prefer the car to lug your tired butt around, give bicyclists the respect they deserve.  They will likely outlive you anyway…unless , of course, you hit them.

Until next week…bicyclists are people too (just goofier looking).  Look out for them.

Daun Thompson