Now that summer is over, Durango’s streets are calming down, but that doesn’t mean we can stop paying attention while we’re riding our bicycles on the roads.
There are a few key steps bicycle commuters can take to keep everyone safe when we are sharing our streets:
Obey Basic Traffic Laws
While not all bicycle laws and vehicle laws are the same, they are pretty similar most of the time. If you are sharing a street with vehicles, try to act as vehicles do.
Pay attention to stop signs and yield signs.*
Adhere to right-of-way traffic laws.
Communicate to other cyclists, vehicle drivers, or pedestrians by using hand signals.
*As of April this year, The Colorado Safety Stop was put into law, meaning that bicycles can now slowly, and safely roll through stop signs if no other vehicle traffic is present. In addition, cyclists can treat stop lights as they would stop signs. If a light is red, they must stop, look for traffic, and if the intersection is clear, may proceed forward.
The fact of the matter is that cars are bigger, faster, and more likely to cause harm in a collision. While we hope that everyone is being a safe driver, you can’t always count on it, so be aware of the cars around you, and make sure they are aware of you.
Make eye contact with drivers that are near you; whether they are moving or not. If you can see them, they can see you.
Don’t assume that vehicles are following the laws. We all mess up, we’ve all run a stop sign, or turned without signaling. Try to slow down and read what the car and driver might be doing. If a car is still going fast at a red light, assume they’re not stopping. If a car is slowing down at an intersection without their turn signal on, assume they are turning. Stay out of the way, keep your cool, and then proceed safely.
Be Visible and Heard
No matter what time of day it is, it’s always good to be visible. Whether this is using lights (always use lights at night), wearing bright colors, using hand motions, or using a bell. Let yourself be known.
You don’t have to know the official bicycle hand signals, but you should try to communicate with vehicles the best you can. I personally point to where I’m going, or make any sort of hand motion that makes sense for what I’m trying to communicate.
Lights, especially at night, are a great way to let drivers know you are on the road, and they help you see and be seen, so there’s no reason not to have a light on your bike.
Bells are great for vehicles and pedestrians. It saves you from having to yell “on your left” every time you pass a pedestrian or other cyclist, and in the summer when vehicles have their windows down, it’s a great way to say “hello, I’m near you.”
Staying safe riding a bicycle on Durango’s streets is pretty easy, and no one should be afraid to share the road with vehicles. Just so long as you obey traffic laws (or even better, bicycle laws), make yourself seen and heard, and don’t make too many assumptions.
As always, just have fun riding your bike around town!