Santa Rosa will be swarming with bicycles this weekend as the Amgen Tour of California rolls into town, so this reader question about bicycle safety arrived just in time.

The question: In the “California’s Rules of the Road” bicyclists are to follow the same rules of the road as motor vehicles. I understand some communities allow bicycles on sidewalks, but does the law allow them the right-of- way in the crosswalks as well?

Many near misses have occurred as a bike speeds across a crosswalk. Drivers have warning when a pedestrian steps into a crosswalk but not as much with a bike. The uncertainty of what a bicyclist is going to do leaves driver and cyclist in peril. — Janet Lowy

The answer: Just because a behavior is allowed does not mean it is safe or even a good idea. The sidewalk issue is a bit cloudy since people of all ages can ride bicycles.

For example, parents might be nervous about allowing a 6-year-old to ride in the street, but it is still more dangerous (to ride on the sidewalk) than riding in the road. The danger is cars backing out of driveways that do not expect a fast moving kid on a bicycle. With the exception of major arterial roads, it’s safer for kids (and everyone else) to ride on the street.

The Sonoma County Bicycle Coalition feels the safest way for people to enjoy the road on a bicycle is to behave like a vehicle, not a pedestrian. This means that if people riding bicycles use a crosswalk, they need get off their bikes and become pedestrians. We also recommend that even if riding on the sidewalk is allowed, people walk their bikes rather than ride them. — Gary Helfrich, Executive Director, Sonoma County Bicycle Coalition


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