Knowing the rules, laws will help keep bicyclists, motorists safe this year

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Saturday, July 2, 2011
— Verbal abuse, including profanity, is common when cyclist Mike Norton is out for a ride.

"Almost every ride someone will shout at me," the 30-year-old Beloit man said.

Last year, while on a ride with fellow members of the Janesville Velo Club, someone threw a half-filled beer can at one of the cyclists.

"It put a dent on the bike and hit the cyclist's knee," Norton said.

One bicyclist was injured or killed every nine hours in Wisconsin in 2009. During the same year, 1,033 crashes involved bicyclists statewide. Of these crashes, seven bicyclists were killed and 969 bicyclists were injured, according to the Wisconsin Department of Transportation.

Norton has been cycling since he was 9, spent four years as a professional cyclist and has 15 years of racing experience. The statistics didn't surprise him.

He has been hit by motorists three times while riding his bike, has had other close calls, knows a cyclist who died in a crash with a vehicle and knows another who was critically injured.

"People are getting hit all the time," he said.

His first bicycle crash happened when he was 14. As Norton was returning from a 30-mile training ride less than two miles from his native Goshen, N.Y., a female motorist turned left in front of him as he rode through the intersection at a green traffic light.

The impact threw Norton onto the hood of another car, leaving it scratched, dented and mangled, he said.

Norton had been wearing a helmet, and a scan revealed no head injuries. Other than a hurt finger and elbow scrapes, he was OK.

Norton said the crash reinforced for him the importance of always wearing a helmet and not trusting motorists.

"I always make eye contact with the driver," he said.

Norton said local cyclists conduct meetings regularly to advocate for bicyclists rights and to find ways for bicyclists to be more courteous while cycling on roads. Yet it's also important motorists become aware of the laws, he said.

"We're just looking for a little bit of respect," Norton said. "Put yourself in the cyclists' place. It doesn't do any good (for a motorist) to honk the horn or curse at the cyclist when on the road and rushing by.

"Driving is a privilege one should value and not take advantage of."


Because bicycles are considered vehicles on Wisconsin roadways, bicyclists must obey rules of the road just like motorists, according to a Rock County Sheriff's Office press release.

The sheriff's office offered bicyclists these tips to stay safe:

-- Ride at least three feet from the curb, parked vehicles or debris. Don't swerve in and out around parked vehicles.

-- Ride in the same direction as traffic.

-- Don't ride on sidewalks. It is illegal unless the community you live in has passed an ordinance specifically permitting sidewalk riding, which can be age restricted, location restricted or based on the type of property abutting the sidewalk.

-- Obey all traffic laws.

-- Wear a helmet.

For motorists, the Wisconsin Department of Transportation offered these tips:

-- Allow at least three feet of clearance when passing a bicyclist.

-- If you've parked your vehicle and are getting out, you are responsible to look before opening your door so it doesn't hit oncoming bicyclists.

-- When turning left, watch for and yield to oncoming bicyclists just as you would yield to oncoming motorists.

-- When turning right, yield to any bicyclist traveling on your right. Do not try to pass a bicyclist if you are planning to turn right at the next intersection or driveway.

-- Be aware of children riding their bicycles. A child riding in the street might suddenly swerve in front of you.

Last updated: 5:58 pm Thursday, December 13, 2012

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