Door County’s quality roads and scenic vistas lure cyclists from throughout the Midwest. A good grasp of the rules of the road for cyclists and drivers will help you enjoy them safely as you share high-speed back roads and distracting stretches of scenic beauty.
- Always ride in the direction of traffic. For one, it’s the law. You might think it’s safer to ride against traffic because cars can see you but in an accident, your relative speed on impact will be much greater, meaning you and the driver have less time to react and the force on impact is much more devastating. Plus, cars pulling onto the road from driveways and adjacent streets are not expecting traffic to come from their right and often won’t even look that way, which results in them turning directly into you.
- Be visible. Whenever possible, move toward the center of your lane at intersections. Always assume cars are not aware of you. Many riders believe you should “hide” on the right side of the road but as a cyclist, you want to be as obvious as possible. This becomes even more important at intersections where cyclists are vulnerable to cars making right-hand turns, or to oncoming traffic making left-hand turns. Move inward and try to make eye contact with oncoming drivers.
- Wear high-visibility gear. If your clothing is dark, bring a bright vest. And if you’re riding at dusk or at night, always use front and rear lights.
- Watch for doors. One of the most common bike crashes involves cyclists taken out by car doors opening. When riding through the city or in village centers alongside parked cars, always assume there is someone inside that parked car who is about to open the door into your path. Ride farther to the left when pedaling alongside parked cars.
- Don’t ride on the sidewalk. If you’re older than 10, it’s illegal and you can be ticketed for doing it. Plus, you’re statistically safer on the road than on the sidewalk. Several studies show it’s twice as dangerous to ride on sidewalks and crosswalks than on the road. Drivers don’t expect a cyclist in a crosswalk.
- Be predictable. Don’t swerve in and out of the driving lane and the parking lane. Ride a steady line and when going around obstructions, other cyclists and parked cars, always look behind you first. If moving left into traffic, signal early enough to let drivers know.
- Stop at stop signs. On city streets, cyclists and drivers ignoring stop signs and red lights are one of the top causes of crashes.
Safer Driving is Safer Cycling
Many drivers don’t realize that bicyclists have the same rights to the roadways as vehicles and are considered vehicles under Wisconsin law. That means bicyclists must obey the rules of the road like any other vehicle and must be treated as equal users by all other vehicles.
- Check before turning. Before veering to the right-hand lane to make a turn, check your mirrors and over your right shoulder for cyclists. When turning left, look for cyclists approaching the intersection as well as cars. Drivers failing to yield to cyclists while making right or left turns are among the most common causes for bike crashes.
- Look before opening doors. Check behind you when opening your car door to avoid “dooring” a cyclist (and getting slapped with a hefty fine or worse).
- Give space. Provide at least three feet of distance between you and a cyclist when passing.
- Be responsible. It is the driver’s responsibility to drive at a prudent speed (potentially slower than the speed limit) to be able to safely react to cyclists and pedestrians in the roadway.
The Door County Silent Sports Alliance hosts two cycling safety programs each summer. The first will be held May 22, 2017, from 6:00 to 8:00 pm at Bay View Lutheran Church in Sturgeon Bay, and another will be held August 5, 2017, at the Sturgeon Bay High School. There will be bicycle safety instruction, registration, basic first aid, and helmet fitting from the Door County Silent Sports Alliance and Sturgeon Bay Police Department. Plus, all youth riders receive a free bike helmet.