Safety urged during season of cyclists

Traffic Talk

June 25, 2002|By Jody K. Vilschick | Jody K. Vilschick,SPECIAL TO THE SUN

DRIVING ALONG Howard County's roads in the summer means encountering bicyclists, young and old. I'm not sure which I fear - or fear for - more. I've seen children of parents who should know better ride their bikes unhelmeted, dart out between parked cars or zoom down driveways without looking.

I've also seen adults riding their bicycles stupidly. One mature cyclist was sighted recently driving against traffic - on U.S. 40 at St. Johns Lane. (Keep doing that, and soon the state's average IQ will increase, just a little.)

But more on stupid-adult behavior in other columns. Summer is upon us, and so is the threat that your little ones might not make it to the next school year. Parents, see how you do on this quiz, and then read below for rules to help your children survive the summer.

1. When should a bike helmet be worn?

a. Only when riding on the street.

b. All the time.

c. When it matches your outfit.

2. How many people may ride safely on a bicycle built for one?

a. As many people as can fit.

b. One person.

c. Two people.

3. You should ride your bicycle:

a. On the left side of the road against the flow of traffic so everyone can see your face.

b. On the right side of the road going with the direction of traffic.

c. In the middle of the road.

4. When riding your bike, you should:

a. Hold up traffic while riding in the middle of the road.

b. Follow all traffic laws.

c. Sing "Born to Be Wild."

If you selected any answer other than "b" for every question, you fail.

Why am I ranting?

Each year in the United States, nearly 1,000 people die in bicycle accidents involving a motor vehicle, and about half are children younger than 15. And nearly 1 million children receive medical treatment for biking-related injuries each year.

Hello, parents. What are you doing to protect your precious darlings?

Although most car-bike accidents involving adult cyclists are caused by motorists, most of those involving children are caused by children. Young children might not understand the rules of the road - and those who don't should not be riding on streets and roads, even supposedly quiet neighborhood streets.

Many bike-related accidents can be avoided if you take time to teach your kids bike safety rules. Vigilantly supervising your kids would not hurt, either.

Courtesy of the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, here are some rules for bike safety:

1. Wear a helmet that fits properly.

2. Wear bright-colored clothing and shoes or sneakers - don't ride in bare feet or sandals.

3. Be cautious at driveways. Often drivers backing out forget to check whether someone is on the sidewalk, even though they've just checked to ensure that the street is clear.

4. Children younger than 9 should stay off streets and roads - even "safe" neighborhood streets.

5. Obey the rules of the road. These include traffic signs, signals and road markings.

6. Never ride out into a street without stopping first. Look both ways.

7. Obey stop signs and traffic lights.

8. Check behind you before swerving, turning or changing lanes.

9. Never follow another rider without applying the rules.

10. Only one person per bike, unless it's a bicycle built for two.

The law of tonnage is stacked against cyclists. When a 50- pound child on a 15-pound bike comes up against a two-ton SUV, guess who wins?

Adult cyclists could benefit from following these rules, by the way. I've seen well-outfitted adult cyclists sail through red lights, weave between cars slowing down for traffic lights, ride on the wrong side of the road. ... Oy! What haven't I seen? But I also know that motorists aren't angels, either.

What have been your experiences along Howard County's highways and byways?

Roundabout review

Have you heard enough about those pesky highway roundabouts? If not, here's something you might be interested in. The Federal Highway Administration's Turner-Fairbank Highway Research Center is sending a team of research psychologists and transportation engineers to study how people drive through two-lane roundabouts. They are looking for about 100 driver volunteers, each of whom must be at least 18 years old and have a valid drivers license. The study will take place early next month.

Two roundabouts have been chosen for the study: on Howard County's Route 216 at U.S. 29, and at Perry Parkway in Gaithersburg (Montgomery County).

If increasing our understanding of how we drive these roundabouts is not enough to motivate you, here's this. The agency is willing to pay participants $30 an hour plus mileage. If you're interested, contact Vanessa Davis at 202-493-3386, or send e-mail to Steve Greene at Ste gov.

See you there!

What's your traffic trauma? Contact Jody K. Vilschick at Technophobes can mail letters to Traffic Talk, The Sun in Howard County, 5570 Sterrett Place, Suite 300, Columbia 21044, or send them via fax to 410-715- 2816.

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