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Sharing the road

Bicyclists have a legal right to ride on the roadway

PRINCETON — With Princeton’s popular bicycle event, Z-Tour, just around the corner, motorists should be on the lookout for cyclists on the roadways.

Bicyclists are legal vehicles and have all the rights and responsibilities as motorists, therefore it’s important to remember to share the road and be cautious when out and about.

Princeton Police Chief Tom Root said visibility is the important thing to remember when it comes to bicycle safety — it’s all about seeing and being seen. While motorists constantly need to be on the lookout for cyclists, Root said officers would also like bikers to wear more reflective gear and bright-colored clothing to ensure they are visible to all motorists passing by.

“There seems to be more and more people riding bicycles each year, and so it’s critical for motorists and cyclists to learn how to share the road to prevent accidents from happening,” he said.

The average person on a bicycle takes up only about 3 feet of space from side-to-side and about 6 feet from top-to-bottom. A cyclist should remember to sport bright colors in the daytime; And at night, use lights in front and back and sport reflective gear.

The League of Illinois Bicyclists reports excessive speed by a motorist to be the leading cause of crashes and a major factor in the seriousness of a vehicle-bicyclist crash —The higher the speed, the greater the likelihood a bicyclist will be killed.

According to the League, the common response by motorists after a crash is, “I didn’t see him.” It often means a driver was not paying attention to the road and not alert to the presence of the bicyclist.

Bureau County Sheriff John Thompson puts things in perspective when explaining that a lot of times motorists will be driving down the road at 55 mph and come upon bikers only going about 10-15 mph. It’s a drastic change in speed, and many times a motorist will become frustrated while trying to find the opportune time to pass the bicyclers.

“The important thing motorists have to remember is the bikers are entitled to the roadway just as much as the motorists; therefore they have to keep their speed in check and pay attention to avoid an accident,” he said.

It’s also important for motorists to give cyclists at least 3 feet of space when passing, as it’s the law.

Bicyclists fare best when they act and are treated like other vehicles on the road.

The Illinois State Police provide a list of bicycle laws and safety regulations on their website at Within the rules, they discuss there is no justification for intimidation.

“Although bicyclists’ traffic violations disturb and even anger some motorists, they are usually not the major cause of crashes with motor vehicles. Motorists have no right to intimidate bicyclists for riding in the road, where they have a legal right to be. Everyone gets where they’re going safely when everyone shares the road and shows patience and courtesy.”

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Bike safety tips
1. Wear a helmet at all times.
2. Obey all traffic laws, signs and signals.
3. Keep to the right side of the roadway.
4. Keep brakes, lights, reflectors, horn or bells and all safety devices in good working condition.
5. Learn and use hand signals for turns and stops.
6. Follow the Rules of the Road, but ride defensively.
7. Avoid riding after dark. If it’s a must, the bike must have a headlight and taillight or reflector.
8. Do not speed, race or weave in and out of traffic.
9. Do not carry passengers or large packages.
10. Never hitch onto a truck, car or other moving vehicle.
11. Keep both hands on the handle bars, except to signal a turn or stop.
12. Be cautious and ride defensively.
13. If needed, dismount and walk the bike across dangerous intersections or streets.
15. Never squeeze into narrow places or between two vehicles.
Source: Illinois State Police

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