By Tommy Noyes
Did you know that a bicycle is a vehicle? Bicyclists are drivers of vehicles according to Hawai‘i state law.
Here are some excerpts from Rights and Responsibilities for Hawai‘i’s Bicyclists, a Department of Transportation brochure. Follow these important rules to bicycle more safely and be taken seriously by other vehicle drivers.
Obey traffic laws: Bicyclists have most of the same rights and responsibilities as motorists, and are expected to obey traffic laws. That means cyclists may not ride through red lights, ignore stop signs or ride against the flow of traffic.
Travel on the right side: Bicyclists should ride as close to the right hand edge of the road as practicable, except on one-way streets it is legal to ride near the left curb. Bicyclists may ride away from the far right side only under the following conditions: when preparing for a left turn; where necessary to avoid hazards; where the traffic lane is too narrow for a bicyclist and a motor vehicle to travel safely side by side; and when the bicyclist is traveling at the normal speed of traffic. Never ride against traffic. Motorists aren’t looking for bicyclists on the wrong side of the road, and riding on the wrong side increases the chances and severity of collisions with cars.
Avoid sidewalks: It’s illegal to ride on business district sidewalks and wherever signs prohibit bicycle riding on sidewalks. It is dangerous to ride on sidewalks even in residential areas.
Be alert: Rely on your eyes and ears. Learn how to scan back while riding in a straight line to see if there are vehicles approaching you from behind, or use a rear-view mirror. Always scan back before changing lanes or changing positions within your lane. Make eye contact with other drivers — assume other drivers don’t see you until you are sure they do. Watch for cars pulling out of driveways and intersections. Riding with earphones reduces your ability to hear vehicles and makes you considerably less safe.
Be assertive: Follow lane markings — don’t turn left from the right lane. Don’t go straight through in lanes marked right-turn-only or left-turn-only.
Be visible: Wear bright clothing to increase your visibility. Motorists see you better if you are wearing a helmet. In low-light conditions use a strong headlight and a rear reflector or flashing taillight (30 minutes after sunset to 30 minutes before sunrise), and for more protection wear light-colored clothes and retro-reflective items.
Be predictable: Scan and, when safe, signal before turning. Don’t weave in and out between parked cars as motorists may not see you when you move back into traffic. Ride in a straight line to the right of faster moving traffic whenever possible. Keep at least a door’s width away from parked cars. Don’t enter roadways without carefully looking for other vehicles.
Kauai Path’s certified instructors offer Traffic Skills 101 classes in collaboration with the state and county. These comprehensive adult classes teach safe bicycling, details available from news@KauaiPath.org.
- Tommy Noyes works for the Hawai‘i State Department of Health’s Public Health Preparedness branch, serves on Kaua‘i Path’s board of directors, and is a League of American Bicyclists certified instructor.