Traffic Tip Tuesday: Sharing the road with bicycles

This week’s topic is on bicycles. As we get closer to summer, we will see more and more people out riding bicycles on the road. The increase of bicycles on the road comes with an increase of frustration and misunderstanding between riders and drivers. I’ve heard people say that bicyclists don’t have a right to be on the road. I’ve also seen bicyclists on the road who think the rules of the road do not apply to them. I’m here to say both trains of thought are incorrect and unsafe.

The following includes a list and brief description of several laws regarding bicycles on the roadway. These include the rights and duties of someone riding a bicycle, riding on roadways and bicycle paths, emerging from an alley or driveway, riding on sidewalks, and equipment required on a bicycle. This does not include every law regarding the issue, but it’s the majority of issues law enforcement see and deal with.

Farmington City Ordinance 25-3-106. Rights and duties.

Every person riding a bicycle upon a roadway shall be granted all of the rights and shall be subject to all of the duties applicable to the driver of a vehicle, except as provided in this division and NMSA 1978, §§ 25-1-1/66-3-701—66-3-707.

Bicycles have just as much right to be on the road as a motor vehicle. For those who ride bicycles, that means you must obey all traffic laws the same as if you were a motor vehicle. This includes traffic lights, stop signs, rules regarding right of way, etc.

Farmington City Ordinance 25-3-107. Riding on roadways and bicycle paths.

A. Every person driving a bicycle upon streets shall drive in the righthand through lane of the right half of the roadway, except as follows:

  1. When making a legal left turn;
  2. When an obstruction exists making it necessary to drive the bicycle to the left of this portion; any person so doing shall yield the right-of-way to all vehicles and bicycles traveling in the proper direction upon the unobstructed portion of the highway;
  3. When passing on the left of another vehicle or bicycle; or
  4. When obeying an official traffic control sign, signal or device.

B. Persons driving bicycles upon a roadway shall not ride more than two abreast except on paths or parts of roadways set aside for exclusive use of bicycles.

For those riding a bicycle, try to stay as far to the right of your lane as is safe to do so. If you need to move over within your lane for any of the above reasons, check for motor vehicles. Do not expect them to know your intentions. You can also use hand signals to let those around you know what your intentions are. For those driving a motor vehicle, try to give the bicycle a little extra room and slow down as you pass. Again, this is about sharing the road and trying to make everyone safer.

City Ordinance 25-3-108. Emerging from alley, driveway, private road or building.

A. The operator of a bicycle emerging from an alley, private road, driveway or building shall yield the right-of-way to all pedestrians on the sidewalk or sidewalk area.

B. Upon entering the street, the driver of a bicycle shall yield the right-of-way to all vehicles approaching on the street.

This is similar to the first ordinance listed above. Although on a bicycle, you are still subject to all the rules of the road as a motor vehicle. Bicyclists must yield to any pedestrians on the sidewalk or any vehicles on the road.

City Ordinance 25-3-109. Riding on sidewalks.

A. No person shall ride a bicycle upon a sidewalk within a business district.

B. No person shall ride a bicycle on any sidewalk or street when signs are posted prohibiting bicycles on the sidewalk or street.

C. Whenever any person is riding a bicycle upon a sidewalk, the person shall yield the right-of-way to any pedestrian.

Whether you ride on the road or on the sidewalk, use caution.

New Mexico State Statute 66-3-707. Lamps and other equipment on bicycles.

A. Every bicycle when in use at nighttime shall be equipped with a lamp on the front which shall emit a white light visible from a distance of at least five hundred feet to the front and with a red reflector on the rear of a type approved by the division which shall be visible from all distances from fifty feet to three hundred feet to the rear when directly in front of lawful upper beams of headlamps on a motor vehicle. A lamp emitting a red light visible from a distance of five hundred feet to the rear may be used in addition to the red reflector.

B. No person shall operate a bicycle unless it is equipped with a bell or other device capable of giving a signal audible for a distance of at least one hundred feet, except that a bicycle shall not be equipped with, nor shall any person use upon a bicycle any siren or whistle.

C. Every bicycle shall be equipped with a brake which will enable the operator to make the brake wheels skid on dry, level, clean pavement.

The main thing to take away from this, is the requirement for a light when riding at night. Not only is it the law, it is a huge safety issue. If you are going to ride at night, please purchase a light to mount on your bicycle to make yourself more visible to other motorists.

Other tips for bicyclists.

When riding, remember you are a small object on a large road with a lot going on. Anything you can do to make yourself more visible will only make you safer. Wear bright colored clothes when riding and have a light mounted to your bike if riding at night.

Wear a helmet. They may not be the coolest looking thing or even the most comfortable on a hot day, but it could save your life. If you do wear a helmet, make sure it is fitted properly and snug. Make sure the chin strap is fastened and snug under your chin.

Ride defensively. You may have the right of way, but you will not win against a motor vehicle. Always be thinking ahead and looking ahead. Make eye contact with motorists to be sure they see you and always expect the vehicle to pull out in front of you.

Other tips for drivers.

Slow down. Slow down in residential neighborhoods. Slow down as you pass a bicycle on the road. Leave earlier so you will not be so rushed on the road. Speed limits are set based on a number of factors. Abiding by those speed limits will keep everyone safer.

Look twice. Bicycles and motorcycles are more difficult to see due to their size. Now that nice weather is upon us, there will be more of both on the roads. Look twice before pulling out to make sure you did not miss anything.

Drive defensively. Regardless of who has the right of way, a collision with someone on a bicycle could very well be deadly or the cause of great bodily injury. That is not something anyone wants to deal with. If you drive defensively expecting the worse and planning ahead, you will be better prepared if action is required to avoid a collision.

Hopefully after reading this, motorists will see that bicyclists have the same rights to be on the road as the motorist. Hopefully, the bicyclist reading this will see they need to obey the same traffic laws that apply to motorists. Everyone traveling on the roads, whether by car, truck, motorcycle, or bicycle, needs to be aware of the others and do their part to share the road. As we do this, we can make the streets in our community a little safer for everyone.

Jensen, JonathanOfficer Jensen has been a law enforcement officer with the Farmington Police Department for almost six years. He has been with FPD’s Traffic Division since 2013. Officer Jensen is a certified child passenger safety technician and a traffic collision reconstructionist.