Manner Monday: Bicycle Etiquette

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Recently our family (my husband, our 5 year old son and I) headed out to Lake Hefner for family fun day and a casual bike ride.  Wow.  I think everyone in Oklahoma City had the same idea as it was packed!

We saw many people taking advantage of the beautiful day and the beautiful weather.  So many so, that I thought I would try to paint the proverbial picture for you:

  • Bicyclists:  Professionals, casual riders, children riding with training wheels, families pulling children in buggies, etc.
  • Joggers and walkers, families with small children taking walks, pets
  • Skaters on Rollerblades
  • All of the playgrounds were packed with small children having a hey day
  • And a couple walking two Alpacas, with saddles, along the bike path…  YES.  You read correctly two Alpacas.
  • … I assume you are getting the picture.  There was a lot going on!

As the three of us were riding our bikes, we saw many near misses between the professional cyclists, the casual riders and everyone else listed above.  So I reached out to a dear friend of mine who I consider an expert cyclist as she has “all the gear” and participates in various races and long distance riding for a little advice and insight.

I mentioned to her how I appreciate the expert cyclists as they approach calling out “on your left”. It lets us know they are approaching and will be passing us on our “left” so that we are aware.  And how on the other hand, I would get startled when one would fly past with no warning.

She shared a few of her thoughts on bicycle etiquette and safety that I thought would be beneficial to pass along:

“Notice that the bike path is segmented in lanes for travel in two directions, just like a street. For safety and consideration of others, treat it like a street. You wouldn’t walk into a street without looking for traffic, you wouldn’t drive your car in the wrong lane and no one would let their small child wander into incoming traffic, yet many people do exactly these things without realizing it while on the bike path. The purpose of this path is to be shared by cyclists, runners and families; and sharing can only work if everyone obeys basic traffic rules.

Many, many accidents occur at Lake Hefner because people let their dogs wander (on leash) into the path of oncoming bikes. The same is true of small children on foot or on a bike. I know an expert cyclist who swerved to avoid a two-year-old child wandering IN THE ACTUAL STREET on the dam. The toddler’s father was fishing and didn’t notice the child had wandered away. Thank goodness our friend was paying attention. Unfortunately, in swerving to miss the child, he crashed and broke his collarbone. Also, remember that small children riding bicycles may not know their left from their right, and they certainly don’t know traffic rules. I make a point of slowing waaaay down around these little ones and make sure that the parent sees me. They almost always call the child over to them, or give instructions so that I can pass safely.

Headphones or earbuds are dangerous if they prevent you from hearing traffic around you. This applies to people using the trails as much as it does to people running or cycling in the street.

It’s great that you mentioned about cyclists calling out “on your left” when passing. They are doing that to be considerate, but also to be safe. Several years ago, my husband and a group of cyclists were trying to pass a woman walking on the Hefner trails. He called out “on your left” several times to let her know they were coming. She became more and more confused and finally RAN to her left, directly into his path. He had swerved well off the trail into the grass, in an effort to miss her, and she ran right into him. They both fell and luckily had only cuts and bruises to show for it all.  When I call out before passing someone on the trail, I ALWAYS make sure my tone is friendly and then thank the person.  We are each ambassadors for our sports, and I’d hate to think that my bike etiquette ever frightened someone or caused them to have a negative impression of bicyclists.”

So next time you head out for a family bike ride, please take a few minutes to think about and discuss the rules of the road and basic bicycle etiquette to keep everyone safe on your outing.

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