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Everyone plays a part in road safety
As temperatures rise this summer, it’s imperative that pedestrians, bicyclists and motorists keep their cool on Montgomery County’s roadways and sidewalks.
Tensions might escalate in the summer and tempers can flare, but if everyone follows the law and exercises some patience, everyone’s trip may be a little more enjoyable and, we hope, collision- and tragedy-free.
It’s hard to be a cyclist in the county, especially in its more urban sections. Roads such as Rockville Pike/Wisconsin Avenue and Connecticut Avenue are anything but biker-friendly. That means that cyclists often must ride in the right lane, as is their right under state law.
As much as it might vex drivers, they must share the road, even in the right lane when cyclists are seemingly creeping along in front of them.
Cyclists have a responsibility to obey the law, too. State law requires them to ride as close as possible to the right side of the road, whenever it’s practical and safe to do so. If there’s a bike lane or paved shoulder, they should use it. They should stop at red lights and stop signs.
They’re also required to use hand signals to indicate turns. But considering that many drivers fail to use their directional lights when turning, it’s wishful thinking to expect all cyclists to signal their turns, too.
Bikers could do pedestrians a big favor by staying off the sidewalks in crowded urban areas. A county ordinance authorizes the county executive to prohibit bikes on sidewalks for safety reasons. He hasn’t done so, but common sense dictates that riding a bike through downtown Bethesda on congested sidewalks packed with outdoor restaurant diners and servers is not safe. Dismounting and walking a bike for a few blocks makes sense.
Incidentally, this same county ordinance requires cyclists who ride on sidewalks to give an audible signal and yield the right of way to pedestrians. And a state law calls on every bike to have either a bell or other audible signaling device.
Then, there are the pedestrians. While they may be at the bottom of the transportation food chain, they, too, have responsibilities. Namely: Don’t jaywalk. Drivers and cyclists get justifiably frustrated when they encounter pedestrians crossing against the traffic lights or in the middle of the block. Creating an obstacle course for cars and bikes to navigate does not enhance anyone’s safety.
Finally, we return to the 800-pound — rather, 2-ton — gorilla in this conversation: the motor vehicle.
Drivers, use turn signals before turning or changing lanes. Don’t run red lights and stop signs.
Put down the smartphone. Look before you change lanes. Pay the utmost attention to the road, other motor vehicles, cyclists and pedestrians.
You have at your fingertips a potentially deadly weapon. Drive as if your life and those of everyone around you depends on it. They do.