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Sharing the roadways with bikers

By Staff | Jun 29, 2014

Do you ride a bike? Do you even own a bike?

The non-motorized, pedal-it-with-your-feet, kind of bike.

A bicycle.

Or are you someone who doesn’t ride a bike, but wishes you did?

A lot of folks fit into that category.

There are many people in Blue Earth who do ride a bicycle.

There are kids who ride them all over town, especially to the swimming pool in the summer. A few ride them to the school, the library and anywhere else kids need to go.

I rode a bike a lot when I was a kid. Didn’t you? When you don’t have a driver’s license, a bicycle is your set of wheels.

But, there are a lot of adults in this city who ride bikes, too. Either for exercise or just to get from place to place around town.

It makes sense. Most trips around town in a car are three miles or less. Why fire up that gas guzzler with fuel approaching four bucks a gallon when you can pedal a bike, save some money and get a little exercise as well.

Of course, that scenario works a lot better in the summer time, when the streets are not covered with ice and snow and it is 20 below. There are a few dedicated cyclists who pedal year round, but not many.

You can count me in as a fair-weather biker.

Last Monday a group of Blue Earth citizens spent all morning and some of the afternoon learning how to make this city a “Bike Friendly Community.”

It is a great concept.

Being bike friendly means having designated paths for biking on, and working on also having designated bike lanes on streets as well as places to park your bike.

The people from several state organizations who were running the bike workshop were impressed with Blue Earth in some respects. They liked the shared bike/walk paths around town. They liked the number of bike racks at places such as the school, library and swimming pool.

They even liked the new roundabouts, believe it or not. Bicyclists are given the choice of staying in the lane of traffic to go through the roundabout just like a car, or there are ‘exit ramps’ where the cyclist can leave the traffic lane and go onto the pedestrian walkway.

The visiting cyclists preferred staying in the traffic lane. Bicycles, they point out, are vehicles, and as such they have all the rights of the driver of a car.

And, they have to follow all of the same traffic laws.

There is the problem. Persons riding bicycles, including kids, have to know how to follow all the same rules as the driver of a car. That means obeying traffic signals and signs just like a motor vehicle. If there is a stop sign, for instance, they need to stop. They also need to signal all turns.

And, car drivers have to realize they are sharing the road with another vehicle one with two wheels instead of four. They must give the bikers ample space and share the lane.

That is where being a bike friendly community comes in.

One goal is to make the community a safe environment for bikers. Designated bike paths and lanes help, but so does educating the public.

From 2011 to 2013, 18 bicyclists died on Minnesota roads and 2,634 were injured. That is actually a decline from the previous three-year period. Most of the accidents occur because of failure to give right of way, or failure to obey traffic control devices.

If you want more information on bike safety, check out the Minnesota Department of Transportation’s “Share the Road” program. You can find it at www.sharetheroadmn.org.

I am sure you will be hearing a lot more about making Blue Earth a ‘Bike Friendly Community’ in the future. The Active Living Coalition group has safe biking and designated bike paths in Blue Earth as one of its goals.

They sponsored last Monday’s workshop and they will continue to work on ways to make Blue Earth a great place to walk and bike.

In the meantime, some words of advice are to slow down and don’t forget to share the road with everyone.

And remember to be friendly.