PAINTER: Be careful and safe when riding a bike

We were on our way to our morning workout recently when I noticed a bicyclist riding against traffic on Leonard Road. I mentioned to my wife, Marilyn, that I thought he was violating the “rules of the road.”
May 1, 2013

And he was not wearing a helmet.

Marilyn’s response was that I should write a column about bicycle safety, especially the need to wear a helmet, as she reminded me about my two bicycle accidents that landed me in the hospital emergency room.

“You can take a photo of your wrecked bike (which still hangs in our garage),” she said.

I don’t like to be reminded of my accidents because they could have been avoided if I had been more careful.

My latest visit to the emergency room occurred in October 2011 as I was heading east on the shoulder of Leonard Road. I don’t remember much about the accident except for people gathering around me as I lay on the ground in pain.

I hit my head on the pavement, bruised my shoulder and ribs, badly scraped up my knee, and fractured an upper bone in my vertebrate column.

I spent several hours in the emergency room before medical personnel gave my wife the OK to drive me home. It was a very uncomfortable night.

Several days later, I was examined by a neurosurgeon. He shook his head after I finished describing to him what had happened. I had told him that I was wearing a bicycle helmet and that it had cracked.

The doctor told me that the helmet probably prevented me from being paralyzed or even killed.

My first accident took place a couple of years earlier when I hit a bump on a bicycle path. That time I broke my shoulder blade and fractured some ribs.

As the weather is finally turning warmer, more people will be out riding their bicycles. Riding a bike is a great form of exercise. I had to turn to bike riding after I could no longer run because of a cranky knee. My doctor suggested that I give up running and take up bicycling.

It is important to follow the rules of the road and practice bicycle safely. I now have a rearview mirror on my bike and I always wear a helmet.

Unfortunately, I see too many people without helmets riding bikes. You might think that you won’t get injured because you’re not going very fast. However, it doesn’t take much to fall off your bike and hit your head — possibly suffering a concussion.

National statistics bear out the importance of wearing a bicycle helmet. According to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, wearing a bicycle helmet reduces the chance of death by 85 percent. The agency also reported that, in 2011, 67 percent of bicyclists killed were not wearing helmets.

The agency writes: “Helmets are important for riders of all ages, not just young bicyclists. Eighty-four percent of bicycle deaths are persons 20 and older.”

So please, if you’re not wearing a helmet, start wearing one. Adults can set a good example for their children by wearing helmets.

It is also very important to know the rules of the road. The Tribune, in its latest Mailbag column, recently printed portions of the Michigan Vehicle Code dealing with bicycle riding.

According to the code, bicyclists are required to obey the same traffic laws as motorists. This means that if you are traveling on a road used by vehicles, you must ride in the same direction as the vehicles. Bicyclists must also obey stop signs and stop lights.

While many bicyclists take advantage of our wonderful system of bike paths, including me, some prefer to ride on roads. It is important for motorists and bicycle riders to be aware of each other and to respect each other’s rights. While it is legal for bikers to ride two abreast, it would be wiser to ride single file when a vehicle approaches.

Spring and summer are great times to get out on your bike and to enjoy our beautiful area. But it is also a time to be extra careful and safe.

I know that I am going to do my best to follow the rules and to wear my bicycle helmet. I hope you do, too.

Comments

zwesterhouse

I don't ride on the roads anymore. Nor do my kids. People are just asleep or not paying attention at the wheel and bam! another bicyclist bites the dust. I know an accident victim can "1-800 Call Sam" but the carcass is still laying in the hospital with excruciating injuries that are sometimes fatal or maiming. its just not worth it. Motorists are just plain stupid and don't care and if a bicyclist gets hit - its just another sensationalizing story with the person in the hospital sometimes for months.

SignalMaintainer

Sadly the sidewalks are more dangerous than the road.

While this area has many multi-use paths, there is a severe lack of dedicated bike lanes, and even further, driver education dealing with cyclist. I have had quite a few scary close-calls downtown with in attentive motorists who don't realize that bikes have the right to be in the road and actually in many areas (Washington St included) it is posted that it is illegal to ride on the sidewalks. I cannot count how many times I have nearly been doored, or backed into by a car pulling out of a spot downtown. People just don't seem to realize (or care) the bicycles are vehicles too, and not only have to follow the same rules as cars, but also have the same rights.

While I own a car, I prefer to commute by bike whenever possible not only to save gas but for the fitness/health aspect, not to mention my bike rides much better and is more reliable than my Ford Fusion and MUCH classier: http://i.imgur.com/nJKWuVV.jpg

ghlori

Funny this article came up this week. This past Monday after dropping off mail at the post office and heading home, I came up to the 4-way stop on Sheldon & Howard. Heading south on Sheldon I stopped my vehicle, looked both ways and saw an older woman on a bicycle heading East from the hill on Howard riding on the street. Expecting her to stop at the intersection, I checked again & started to proceed. She never even stopped or slowed down - just raced thru the intersection. I slammed on my brakes to avoid her. As she sped by me, I put down my window and shouted that "she was supposed to stop at the 4 way stop sign". Imagine my surprise as she pedaled faster and raised her hand & flipped me off. She never stopped & never looked back. I get it - bicyclists have the right to use the road, but they should also have to obey the laws of the road. I guess you can't always blame vehicles - it goes both ways.

SignalMaintainer

Don't let a few bad apples ruin your view of cyclists. Many of us follow the rules of the road. At the same time there are drivers out there that do not. Please don't place the blame on cyclists in general because like you said, it goes both ways. I have nearly been hit by a few cars at four way stops. I would stop, wait my turn, and then start to ride through and another car will frequently start going through thinking I do not have the right of way when I actually stopped to wait my turn just as I would in a car.

That being said, there is no excuse for that lady blowing through the stop sign. I have seen many of the 'pro' 'roadies' (the Lycra wearing cyclists) doing this as well. It is totally unacceptable. I think the police need to crack down on both the cyclists AND the cars not following the rules of the road.

Just remember though, many of us do follow the rules of the road while on our bikes, don't let a few bad apples spoil it.

ghlori

I am in no way blaming just cyclists - I'm giving a first hand experience of what happened to me this week. The woman was not a "pro roadie" just on a plain pedal bike & was not wearing a helmet. Just stating that unacceptable behavior, rudeness, & carelessness is practiced by everyone - especially that "lady".

SignalMaintainer

I totally agree with you. Sorry if I came off as saying you we're blaming all cyclists; I didn't mean it that way.

There needs to be better education for both cyclists and motorists, as well as much better enforcement of the law.

The lady you saw has no excuse for what she did.

Sandypants

How long did you sit at the 4 way stop lori? Sounds like you had plenty of time to stop and proceed through the intersection before the bike even got to the stop sign. How long do we have to wait for you to just GO? Bikes have brakes, and bikers have eyes. I seriously doubt that she would have slammed into you.

ghlori

Unlike many drivers who do a rolling stop at intersections, I stop my vehicle completely. I do not "sit" at a stop sign while traffic builds up behind me. I looked to my right, looked left, looked right again & saw the bicycle rider was not going to stop after I started to proceed thru the intersection. She had built up speed coming down the hill and I think had absolutely no intention of stopping at the sign if there was a vehicle or not. I guess I could have just gunned it thru the intersection & watched her roll over my hood, but I had better things to do that nite.

Sandypants

Traffic building up at Sheldon & Howard . . . as if!! Ha ha!!!!!! Just drive. The biker won't ride into you. She was trying to go behind your granny *ss.

MR. WILLIAMS

I see bicyclists of all ages frequently riding their bikes into traffic and see pedestrians walking along the road with traffic. Either they don't know any better, they know the rules but don't follow them for whatever reason, or they do know the rules but just don't care. Unfortunately, they could be writing the chapter for their own demise. I have never ever seen the Police stop a bicyclist or pedestrian breaking the rules/law whom they just cruised by or even tap their break lights. So, I have to conclude that travel is at your own risk and the very most that could happen is you die in the process. The thing is, most people don't believe they will ever die and it just happens to someone else, until that day, hour, minute, or second comes to pass and there they are, however if you look at it this way, that a breath is given to each human being when born to start their life and breaths are given to maintain each life, and finally the time will come for all when the breath leaves the human body. My bet is on the giver of the breath.

Wingmaster

Call me stupid here but I have never understood the law here regarding riding with the traffic! Seems to me you are giving complete trust in the driver to pay attention and see you! If you ride into traffic you at least have an opportunity to dive off the road when someone obviously doesn't see you. Personal responsibilty thing to me!

Ride on. Just don't kid yourself that the law on your side is going to protect you from a hospital stay or worse!

truthhurts

I have had bike riders riding against traffic and riding head on towards me. This is extremely dangerous in the event that a car is in that other lane because I would have room to go around the bike…which is caused by the biker approaching me much faster when riding head on to me and leaves me less time to react and no where to go (move into the other lane to go around biker but a car is there and can’t go towards the ditch because the biker it there) someone gets hit, versus riding with traffic which allows me time to make a judgment call if I have time to go around the biker or wait for opposing traffic to clear. I hope that makes sense…very very dangerous for bikers to ride against traffic. When a biker approaches me head on I can’t slow down for the biker to make a safe pass is what I am saying.

Wingmaster

Makes sense. Anybody have stats on how car/bike accidents happen? I assume most of the time its the cars fault but the how it happens would not only be educational for the bike riders but the motorist too. I ride a motorcycle so I understand how drivers are distracted and simply do not see you for what every reason. I like to be sure I can see their face as it indicates to me if they are looking at me or elsewhere. Many times I have cars come up on me that I'm not sure if they see me or not. I'm on a big bike with plenty of lights too! I leave nothing to chance if I can help it.

Lanivan

I read that 40% of all bicycle accidents involve other users of the roads - cars, trucks, motorcycles, and even other bicycles. The majority of all bicycle/car accidents occur in urban areas, 65% happen at intersections, and the main cause for the accidents is that motorists do not see the cyclist.

SignalMaintainer

The most common cause for accidents is what is known as a 'right hook'. The cyclist will be traveling straight down a road, and a car will make a right turn onto another street or driveway and will essentially run into, or cut off the cyclist. A similar problem is when a cyclist is traveling straight through an intersection and has the right of way while someone on the opposite side of the intersection is turning left and turns directly into the cyclist.

The other common cause is failure to pass with enough space between the car and cyclist. Many states have a 3 foot law which requires drivers to give a cyclist at least three feet of space when passing.

Finally, a third common cause that I have personally very nearly been the victim of on Washington Ave is called being 'doored'. It happens when a cyclist is traveling down a street where parallel parking is allowed, and someone opens a door directly into the cyclists path even though the cyclist had the right of way and the people in the car have a legal obligation to wait until it is safe to open the doors. One very near miss downtown has caused me to start taking the whole lane (which we have a legal right to) when riding down Washington to avoid this.

Cars are at fault in 78% of the accidents (recently read this in a major study but do not have the source off the top of my head) And the auto owner's insurance is responsible for taking care of the cyclists bike (some bikes such as mine are thousands of dollars) and medical care. That is not saying that there are no bad cyclists; I have seen many blow through stop signs, traffic lights, ride against traffic and take up whole lanes just for the hell of it (instead of taking the lane for safety reasons). The bad cyclists need to be punished just like the bad motorists.

Wingmaster

So now you know why I scratch my head about the law. I figure I'm responsible for my own hide so I better be able to see what is coming my way and take action.

Lanivan

Right. I've had the same experience as Ghlori many times. Whether I'm in my car, on my bike, or walking, I never assume that other people, either in their cars, bikes, cycles, or walking, actually see me and acknowledge my presence, or that they will yield, stop or act in accordance with the law.

newspaperlawyer

I have noticed recently that the local police agencies have been running radar on Grand Ave, Sheldon Ave and US-31. But I have never observed a police car have a bicyclist pulled over for traffic violations. Maybe if a couple citations were issued for these violations maybe all will get a clue.

Lanivan

Good observation! I've never seen a bicyclist pulled over either, despite seeing many infringements of bicycle laws.

franklinferryracism

I have to walk with my daughter as she rides her bike because on franklin street and ferry street we are a bi-racial family and I we have had people follow us even when I drop her off at school. They wait for us even to come home at night so safety will always be a concern when my child riding her bike.Always supervised they will probably try to hit her on purpose. Stalkers!

truthhurts

go play your racial card elsewhere

franklinferryracism

yeah it might apply to you do you live on my block...oops you might dont like it dont look!check the police report u must be the family member...

truthhurts

common tribune...where is the article about the speed biker getting killed for not following the rules of the road???????????? does it not fit your agenda?

Sandypants

Yeah, and nobody EVER gets killed in cars. What is your beef about bikers?

franklinferryracism

truthhurts is just like the rest dont judge me unless you walk a day in my family shoes! NOW THATS THE TRUTH! GO FIGURE! FERRY STREET RACISM HAS SPOKEN! ASK THE MAN WHO VIDEO TAPES MY FAMILY TRUTH!

LessThanAmused

Holy Moly.....put the crack pipe down and back away from the keyboard slowly.....

franklinferryracism

Maybe truth smokes...but I've always lived a healthy life ALWAYS(never even tasted alcohol)...I stated I walk my 5 year old while she rides her bike because you never know how a child can go in the rode...but on other hand my multi racial family have been a target by these neighbors they do follow me and wait for my family and try to intimidate us so Im more caution with her on the bike..it struck Truth but I have to explain to my child why people act a certain way! Sorry but I never played the race card just my family gets harrassed and stalked thats why I informed their school and the public safety...I will stand by my words.I will walk with her until shes 21 if I fear her safety!

Sandypants

There you go GH. Safety means different things to different people. Be nice!

Sandypants

dude . . . I thought we were talking about bikes . . . pshaw! You got some kind of reality show goin' on there? GH is infamous for nosy neighbors!

franklinferryracism

Truth doent know the TRUTH...LOL!

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