You've strapped on your helmet, the tires on your bike are pumped up and now you're ready to hit the streets, but do you know the rules of the road?
Understanding those rules is an important responsibility for cyclists and drivers alike. With help from the city of Fort Wayne and the Fort Wayne Police Department, you can follow these simple safety tips to travel around Fort Wayne responsibly.
Obey all traffic laws
If you're riding your bike on the road, you follow the same rules as a person driving a car. Yes, that means you need to stop at all stop signs and red lights. You also are required to use hand signals to notify other drivers when you are turning. When riding, always make sure to ride on the right side of the road and be predictable; that means no weaving in and out of traffic.
Fort Wayne Police Sgt. Mark Dolezal said the most common cycling mistake he witnesses are people running stop lights and stop signs.
“A lot of people are guilty of riding through stop signs on bikes. They think the rules don't apply, but the danger of that is if you run a red light or stop sign like anybody else you are liable to get into an accident,” he said.
Also, be sure to give the right of way to pedestrians. If you're riding on the trails, keep to the right and pass on the left. Don't forget to stop for cross traffic when riding on the trails.
Wear a helmet
The best thing you can do to ensure your safety is to wear a bike helmet. According to Bike Fort Wayne, wearing a helmet can prevent up to 88 percent of cyclists' brain injuries. That also means wearing your helmet correctly. Make sure your helmet is the proper size and snug when the straps are fastened. The helmet should sit level on your head and low on your forehead — one or two finger-widths above your eyebrow.
Are you using a headlight or rear lights in the early mornings and at night? Using additional reflective material on fenders and pedals can significantly increase your visibility. If you're looking for a quick, cheap solution to become visible on your bike, simply wear bright, colorful clothing. Stop out to Summit City Bicycles & Fitness or Fort Wayne Outfitters & Bike Depot, for example, to check out the reflective neon yellow bike jerseys for optimal visibility.
Avid cyclist and Bicycle Friendly Fort Wayne organizer P.J. Thuringer said it's not uncommon to have a close call with a vehicle every now and then.
“The reason we don't have more bikers is because people don't feel safe,” he said. “I've had close calls. I just had one. I had a guy on a phone, then the next thing I know he was not far from my handle bar. But really, 99 percent of the time people are great.”
But Thuringer did highlight want very important fact. Fort Wayne is one of the very few cities in the country that has adopted the 3-foot law.
Remember the 3-foot law
A driver passing a bike must leave at least 3 feet between the vehicle and the bike until safely past the bicycle. Many bike-friendly communities have established “3-foot zones” to prevent serious accidents.
Thuringer said if he could request one thing from a local driver, he would ask for patience.
“You can't pass me right now, but in 20 seconds you'll be able to. It's not that big of a deal. People in Fort Wayne are kind, people understand. It's a rarity when I have a run-in (with a driver). The roads are safer than most people think,” he said.
If you're still nervous about riding on the road, just hop on the trails. With 70 miles of trails throughout Allen County, riders can easily navigate around the city without even riding on the roads. (If you want to learn more about Fort Wayne's trail system, check out this story published in The News-Sentinel.)