The City of Sacramento is conducting a series of free Urban Cycling 101 classes. I have been seriously considering getting a bike – so I signed up and attended a recent class held at Sacramento City Hall.
I also felt, as a driver who encounters bicyclists on the road frequently, that it would be helpful to refresh myself on “the rules”. Every year Sacramento has bicyclists injured or killed as a result a car/bicycle collisions – and I don’t want to become one of the statistics.
The Urban Cycling 101 class was very educational and I was glad that I attended. Topics covered included:
- biking and the law;
- bikeways and traveling the street;
- avoiding crashes;
- and, enjoying the ride.
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The first thing covered was the law relating to lights and reflectors. A white headlight, rear red reflector, and side reflectors are required by law. The instructor also strongly encouraged us to have a red solid or flashing red rear light and a bike bell as a means to communicate with those around us.
Other laws specifically address brakes, handlebars and bicycle size. A bicycle must have a brake that allows an operator to execute a one-braked-wheel skid on dry, level, clean pavement; handlebars must not be higher than the rider’s shoulders; and, the bike must be small enough for the rider to stop, support it with one foot on the ground, and start safely.
Not all do so – but bicyclists are required to use hand signals in advance of a stop or turn so that drivers know what they are doing and where they are going. Even worse – many drivers fail to use their blinkers to signal their intent to turn – or fail to turn the blinker off afterwards. This failure is so prevalent that when driving I for one never trust a motorist signaling a turn until the turn is initiated.
Helmets are required for bicyclists under 18 and recommended for all users. Advice was given on how a helmet should fit – it should be snug and level with the front of the helmet sitting low above the eyebrows and the chinstrap buckled securely at the throat.
Bicyclists must use the bike lane when there is one and ride on the right – except when passing another road user, preparing to make a left turn, to avoid hazards, near right turn areas, on one-way streets, and on travel lanes too narrow to share. Checking to see what is behind you i.e. “The Shoulder Check” is a safety must.
“Same road, same rules” was stressed i.e. every bicyclist has all the same rights and is subject to the same rules of the road as a driver of a vehicle. This includes traveling in the same direction as vehicles, obeying stop signs and traffic signals, and yielding to pedestrians. I for one have often observed bicyclists cruising through a stop sign without stopping. A recent bill in the California Legislature which would have changed the law as it relates to stop signs has failed to move forward this year – so the law stands.
The rules covering how to share a narrow lane with no parking, sharing a wide lane, and passing on the left on paths/trails was covered – as was the proper lane positioning for turn lanes or where there are no turn lanes at intersections.
There are three ways to make a left turn: turn from the left turn lane, make a two-stage turn; and, cross as a pedestrian (walking). More often than not I see bicyclists cross a street in or near the crosswalk while riding their bike when the “walk” signal is activated. I did not know (or maybe I forgot) the requirement that the bike be “walked” across the street.
Safety – avoiding crashes – was of particular interest to me as someone who has not ridden a bike for a long time. While a bicyclist must travel on the right side of the roadway in the direction of traffic the importance of not riding too far to the right – in order to avoid the “door zone” – was stressed.
An exception to the rule to ride to the right as close as practical is when a bicyclist is near a right turn area. Drivers are required to merge into a bike lane and turn from the curb – but many drivers I have observed don’t move to the right. We were cautioned to both look for a turn signal and to avoid the driver’s blind spot at a right turn area. Once a car moves into the bike lane the bike rider can then safely pass on the left. Equally as important is watching for vehicles turning left in front of you!
Advice was also given how to safely cross rail tracks – which is at a right angle. I had never given this issue much thought but it is good to know the safe way to do so given the railroad tracks that crisscross Sacramento.
Before each ride the ABC Quick Check was advised – checking the air, brakes and chain (and cranks) and the quick release.
Class attendees were provided with a booklet outlining the issues covered – and a Sacramento Bikeway User Map. The map details the existing off-street paths, bike lanes, bike routes and one-way streets. I know that I will study the possible routes to where I want to go in advance of leaving the house to ensure the easiest and safest route!
We also were instructed on how to lock a bike – locking the frame and front wheel to a secure rack or post. A high quality U-lock was recommended. Equally as important, it was suggested we remove components that can be easily stolen such as lights or speedometers whenever our bike is out of our sight – even for a short time.
While registering your bike with the Sacramento Police Department is not required we were encouraged to do so – in case our bike is stolen. I certainly plan to register my bike.
So, next up is bike and accessory shopping. Do you have any recommendations to share?
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Also see related post: Bicycle-Car Accidents in Sacramento