Guidelines for motorists and cyclists

To the Editor:

Spring is finally here and the Multiple Sclerosis Ride is this weekend, making it a good time to remind everyone — motorists, bicyclists, pedestrians — to be aware of increased bicycling activity and review some rules of the road. A starting point concerns the shared-use paths, known as bike paths. These paths extend along several main roads and present an alternative for cyclists who would rather not ride in roadways. But even where these paths exist, bicyclists retain the legal right to ride in the roadway. Pedestrians, slow moving cyclists, and debris on the paths may make staying on the road preferable, especially for speedier cyclists. When in the roadway, cyclists have the right to be in the travel lane used by cars. Some cyclists may choose to keep to the shoulder, but debris and variable shoulder width often make it safer to stay consistently in the travel lane. As there is still a lot of sand on many sections of bike paths and road shoulders, everyone should exercise caution. Here are a few additional reminders for safe bicycling and driving on Martha’s Vineyard. For cyclists: • When using roadways, always ride with traffic. It is against the law to ride the wrong way on a one-way street. By law, cyclists must ride on the right side of the travel lane, or in the shoulder, unless positioning to turn left. Ride single file to allow motorists (and faster cyclists) to safely pass. • When using the shared use paths, use caution and be alert for vehicles crossing the path from side roads and driveways. Stay to the right. Remember that pedestrians have the right of way, and give them an audible warning when passing (say “Bike passing”, or “On your left.”). Also, pull off the path when pausing, so as not to obstruct the path for others. • Riding on sidewalks is permissible, except in downtown areas. Again, yield to pedestrians, and do not block others from using the sidewalk. • Protect yourself. Although Massachusetts law requires riders 16 and under to wear a helmet, all riders should. It’s also the law that you have proper lights and reflectors when riding after dark. Bicycling with headphones or “ear buds” is strongly discouraged. For motorists:

• When crossing a shared use path — whether exiting a driveway or turning off a main road — remember that cyclists and pedestrians always have the right of way. (The stop signs for bikes at most path intersections are cautionary and will be phased out by the towns.)

• When passing cyclists on the roadway, please do so cautiously and courteously. Allow plenty of room, and pass only when you are sure there are no oncoming vehicles. Bicyclists can usually hear a vehicle approaching from behind; if you wish to sound your horn, do so before you are so close as to startle them.

• Remember that bicycling is beneficial. Every adult who is biking may be one less car on the road and one less car hunting for a parking space. Bicycling is also healthier, less expensive, and more environmentally friendly than driving. For more information on bike safety, biking to work or school, or bicycle laws, visit www.massbike.org. Vineyard bike shops can also provide you with information, as well as helmets, lights, and other gear. For information on how to get involved with bicycle and pedestrian issues on the Vineyard, or for other cycling-related information, call or e-mail me at 693-3453 x15 (veno@mvcommission.org) or Joint Transportation Committee Bicycle and Pedestrian representative David Whitmon at 693-4905 (whitmon@vineyard.net).

The committee is a sub-committee of the Martha’s Vineyard Joint Transportation Committee. It meets at the MVC Stone Building the third Tuesday of each month at 5 pm. The public is welcome to attend and participate. Safety first, Bill Veno

For the Bicycle and Pedestrian Planning Advisory Committee

Martha’s Vineyard Commission

Oak Bluffs