There are multiple facets of March’s message “Who sees you” that are worth exploring. From the advocacy stand point it is a great continuation of January’s “Be a Roll Model” and February’s “Drive your Bike” education and outreach message. We will discuss that in the second part of this blog post.
The other part of the “Who sees you” message has to do with visibility and the expanded tag line “bright clothing and lights, both day and night.” With the advances in technology there are all kinds of available products from vest and coats to socks and reflective strips for your helmet that help cyclists be seen. An important part of being visible is ensuring you are following Indiana Bicycle Laws. According to IC 9-21-11-9:
A bicycle operated on a highway from one-half (1/2) hour after sunset until one-half (1/2) hour before sunrise must be equipped with the following: (1) A lamp on the front exhibiting a white light visible from a distance of at least five hundred (500) feet to the front. (2) A lamp on the rear exhibiting a red light visible from a distance of five hundred (500) feet to the rear or a red reflector visible from a distance of five hundred (500) feet to the rear.
Still, I am sure we have all seen cyclists on the road, in the early morning or at dusk, who are not wearing reflective gear or not equipped with lights. As advocates and avid cyclists, it is important we do our part to ensure that riding a bike is safe for everyone and that everyone has the right to arrive at their destination safely. Sometime the cyclists you encounter are riding out of necessity and sometimes they are new to cycling. This is an opportunity for education; an opportunity to engage them in a conversation about safety and the importance of being seen. Our local advocacy organization, holds light giveaways in the Spring and Fall throughout the community to help equip those cyclist and to share that safety message. That is a simple activity you, you and a group of friends or your local bicycle club can do.
The second part of the “Who Sees You” message also has to with Indiana Bicycle Laws; it has to do with proper biking etiquette, following the rules of the road and being a role model. As a bicycle advocate and avid cyclist, I am encouraged by the increased popularity of cycling. There is a lot of work happening in the state to increase cycling for transportation and to increase cycling for health all the while trying to make it safer. Whether I am driving (yes, even cyclists sometimes have to drive) or bicycling I am consensus of the fact that as a cycling community we have to speak and act in one collective voice – we are all in this together! Your actions as a cyclist on the road speak volumes to how drivers to treat you. When even one cyclist is disrespectful or does not obey the rules of the road, it is reflected on the whole cycling community and it makes it that much harder to advocate for equality. There are always people who see you and how you act on a bicycle. This is especially true of new cyclists and children who look to you as a leader and the opportunity you have to shape their cycling etiquette.
I am reminded of something that happened last fall as I drove home from work one day. I was approaching a cyclist who was obviously on a recreational afternoon ride. The cyclist, dressed in riding gear and an aerodynamic helmet was putting a few more miles on his bicycle before the end of the season. I gave him a wide berth as I passed as I appreciate when motorists give me plenty of room when passing me. I was stopped by a traffic signal a few hundred feet after passing the cyclist. As the light turned green, I proceeded to move through the intersection. To my amazement the cyclist zipped around me on my left-hand side, pulled in front of me and migrated to the right side of the road. Had I been any quicker getting through the intersection there would have been a collision. I was surprised that a cyclist, who should have known the rules of the road, disregarded common sense as well as bicycle safety and traffic laws.
I am sure I am not the only one who has witnessed unsafe bicyclists. As we work to advocate for the equality of the cyclists, their rights and safety on the road, it is important to remember we are all in this together. Collectively as cyclists are actions speak volumes. In reference to this month’s question, “Who sees you?” The answer is more people are watching than you might expect.
There are several opportunities this month to share your passion for cycling and be seen as a supporter of safer bicycling for all. The League of American Bicyclists sponsors the National Bike Summit in Washington DC from March 10-12. There is a small contingent from Indiana going to share our success stories and discuss bicycle legislation and advocacy. If you are interested in attending, I would visit the League’s website to register as soon as possible. If you are looking for something closer to home, Bicycle Indiana will be hosting the Indiana Bike Summit in Indianapolis on March 19-20. There is still time to register by going to Bicycle Indiana’s website. We hope to see you at one or both of these great events.
—Allan Henderson, board member, Bicycle Indiana