Bike Safety in Heavily Traveled Tempe

When I was a kid, my parents would only let me ride my bike in the backyard or on the side street.  I wasn’t allowed to ride on the busier streets where cars might not see me. There’s no side street for me to stay on anymore. I have places to go and need to use my bike as transportation.

Being on the road as a cyclist can be scary and dangerous. Cars fly by at much higher speeds than a bicycle and this could mean disaster if one of you isn’t following the rules. Bike safety is a two-way street, meaning there are guidelines for both cyclists and drivers.

Let’s first start with the responsibilities of the cyclist:

  • Ride on the right with the flow of traffic. If you ride against traffic, drivers may not see you.
  • Obey traffic signals, signs and laws.
  • Ride in the bike lane if there is one available.  Sidewalks are also acceptable most of the time, but avoid pedestrians and make sure that cars can still see you.
  • Use hand signals to communicate your next move.
  • Wear a helmet.
  • Follow lane markings and use marked crossings.
  • Be aware of what’s going on around you.
  • Wear bright colored clothing.
  • Use a light at night. It is also smart to have reflectors attached to the bike and a rear light as well.
  • When in doubt, wait to see what the driver of the vehicle is going to do. If they are not paying attention and hit you, it might not matter who was at fault….if you are injured or even worse- dead.

When approaching the light rail or railroad crossings:

  • Never try to beat the train.
  • Never stop on the tracks.
  • Be alert.
  • Look for flashing headlights and listen for warning bells.
  • Look both ways before crossing the tracks.

As the operator of a vehicle:

  • Be aware of intersections and when the cyclist has the sign to cross. When a light turns green, make sure the intersection is clear before you go.
  • Leave at least three feet when passing a cyclist. In Arizona, there is a $500 fine for breaking this law.
  • Always wear your seat belt.
  • Obey the speed limits.
  • Watch for bicyclists and pedestrians. Did you know that if there is not a designated bike lane, a bicyclist is permitted to ride in the travel lane just like a car? Pass cyclists safely.
  • Don’t text or talk on your cell phone.
  • Use turn signals to indicate your intention to turn or change lanes.
  • Don’t drink and drive.
  • Be aware of what’s going on around you.

Bike safety is such a huge issue because lives are at risk. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, said in 2009 there were 51,000 injuries and 630 cyclist deaths caused by motor vehicle traffic crashes.

In Tempe, there have been two fatal bicycle-vehicle accidents. The accidents happened last May, just a week apart from each other. The victims, Chris Volpe and Jay Fretz, were crossing busy intersections when they were struck by vehicles that did not see them. A ghost bike is a memorial created to remember the victims of bike-related fatalities. A bike is painted white and placed near the crash site to remind people of the tragedy and to create awareness of bike safety. The Tempe Bicycle Action Group installed Tempe’s first ghost bike for Chris Volpe located on Ash Avenue and University Drive on May 16, 2010.  The second bike in memory of Jay Fretz is located on Alameda and McClintock drives.

Ghost Bike for Chris Volpe in Tempe

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4 responses »

  1. Actually, riding on the sidewalk, even with the flow of traffic is not recommended. There is no state law that regulates sidewalk riding, but the City of Tempe does have a law that makes sidewalk riding illegal.

    Arizona state law mandates a front AND rear light at night.

    Cyclists are NOT pedestrians and are not protected by any pedestrian laws. Cyclists are vehicle operators and should behave as such.

    Cyclists are ALWAYS permitted to use the full lane, even if there is a bike lane.

    • I think Mill Avenue is the only sidewalk that banned bike riding. Not all roads have bike lanes, so cyclists will use the sidewalk and road, whichever they feel more comfortable. Thanks for your comment.

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