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Rules of the road — education key to safety
Editor’s Note: This is the second of a two-part look at bicycling in Porterville. The first part ran Saturday.
Believe it or not, the city of Porterville is a “Share the Road” city.
The designation is intended to make the roads safer for all, specifically for bicyclists, pedestrians and others who are vulnerable to vehicular traffic.
When the Porterville City Council adopted the label in June, it was expected that the move would send a message to local citizens that the city and council were committed to safety and wanted to promote health and well-being of its residents that walk or bike on city roads through education of the public regarding bicycle-user safety tips, the implementation of additional bicycle signage and increased enforcement of pedestrian, bicycle and vehicular laws.
Yet some would say that Porterville motorists are everything but generous when it comes to sharing the road with bicyclists.
In response to a question on The Recorder’s Facebook page Friday, Angie Edwards said, “I have almost been hit several times by cars. People do not pay attention to people on bikes. I hate to admit this, I have had to use the sidewalk on several occasions on Westfield due to the amount of traffic and the cars parked in the street.”
Fortino Barrios said, “I was hit a year ago on my bicycle. I was lucky enough to have been paying attention and managed to jump off my bike as the vehicle pulled my bike out of my hands and under its tires. My attitude then was I have the right of way, so tough luck to the motorist, but now I ride with caution because in the end, I won’t win the collision with a car and I have a family I need to return to.”
Brett Catchings said, “I was threatened by a motorist a few weeks ago on Plano who actually got out of his truck in front of me and threatened me because ‘I was in his way.’ I think many people have misconceptions regarding the rules of the road, cyclists and motorists alike, and maybe some public education would help.”
So what are the local rules of the road as they pertain to bicycles?
Porterville Police Officer Carl Jordan, with the department’s traffic division, said the main thing to remember is that bicycles are considered vehicles and any laws that apply to vehicles, which can by their nature apply to bicycles, do apply.
“Obviously, there are some like turn signals, certain equipment violations and certain movement violations that can’t apply to bicycles,” he said.
This means that bicycles must travel the same direction as traffic and must stay as close to the right-hand curb as possible.
In Porterville, it is illegal to ride a bicycle on a city sidewalk. It is also illegal to ride a bicycle along Main Street, from Morton to Olive avenues.
Jordan said that while they have issued citations for riding along Main Street, they are few and far between. Citations for riding on sidewalks, however, are a different story.
Jordan said some of the most common bicycle-related violations in town he’s encountered are riding on sidewalks, not wearing a helmet and riding the wrong way. He said many times, the ones breaking the law are juveniles.
“A lot of them are juveniles and we have a program that we’re able to use called the parental notification program,” Jordan said.
Under the program (used mainly for juveniles who are not wearing a helmet when on a bike) if a violator is under 18 and it’s a minor bicycle-type violation, they will receive a warning citation. Once notified, parents are encouraged to work with their child to ensure the violation stops, Jordan said.
If the juvenile is a repeat violator, the citations can go to the courts.
Additional rules that apply to bicycle traffic violations found in the California Vehicle Code:
- Bicyclists are not allowed on roadways unless their bicycle is equipped with a brake that will enable them to make one braked wheel skid on dry, level, clean pavement.
- Every bicycle operated on any highway during darkness must be equipped with the following:
1. A lamp emitting a white light which illuminates the highway and is visible from a distance of 300 feet to the front and the sides of the bicycle.
2. A red reflector mounted on the rear of the bicycle and visible from 500 feet to the rear of the bicycle.
3. A white or yellow reflector mounted on each pedal visible 200 feet to the front and rear of the bicycle and a white or red reflector on each side to the rear of the center of the bicycle, except bicycles which are equipped with reflectorized tires on the front and the rear need not be equipped with side reflectors. All reflectorized tires must meet DMV requirements.
- A lamp or lamp combination, emitting a white light, attached to the operator and visible from a distance of 300 feet in front and from the sides of the bicycle, may be used in place of a lamp attached to the bike.
- Bicyclists are not allowed to use their bicycle while carrying any package, bundle, or article which prevents them from keeping at least one hand on the handlebars.
- No person is allowed to drive a motor vehicle in a bicycle lane established on a roadway except as follows:
1. To park where parking is permitted.
2. To enter or leave the roadway.
3. To prepare for a turn within a distance of 200 feet from the intersection
Jordan said aside from being mindful of the signage, it is the public’s responsibility to stay informed about the rules of the road.
“They’re just supposed to know, and part of it is…I don’t know if parents are dropping the ball on say the schools, but ultimately the parents need to teach their children those things and I think that we’ve failed,” Jordan said. “Kids forget that a couple thousand pound vehicle coming their way can kill them. They’re just worried about following some dog.”
Contact Denise Madrid at 784-5000, Ext. 1047. Follow her on Twitter at DeniseMadrid_.