After the long winter we’ve had, I’m sure many Tennesseans are itching to get outside and lace up their running shoes, dust off their bicycles, or let the convertible top down to soak up some sunshine.
That’s why this Spring will be an especially busy time for bikers, pedestrians and motorists. However, these three populations don’t always coexist happily, and their combination on roadways can be downright deadly.
According to the Tennessee Department of Safety and Homeland Security, 1,251 pedestrians (which includes walkers, joggers, dog-walkers, skateboarders, rollerbladers, etc.) were involved in motor vehicle accidents across the state in 2013. In the same year, 427 bicyclists were injured in traffic crashes in Tennessee.
Before you tie those laces, jump on your bike or rev your engine, make sure you know how to interact with everyone on the road – runners, cyclists and motorists – to avoid tragedy this Spring. You also want to know your rights in case the unthinkable becomes a reality.
Laws For Pedestrians (Including Runners and Joggers)
According to the law, anyone traveling by the power of two feet is a pedestrian, no matter the speed. This includes runners, joggers, dog-walkers, people crossing the street, teenagers on skateboards and everything in between.
The Tennessee Department of Transportation provides a detailed listing of pedestrian laws on their website, but also offers these general guidelines:
- Under Tennessee law, pedestrians have the right of way at all intersections and driveways.
- Pedestrians must act responsibly, using pedestrian signals and sidewalks where they are available.
- A pedestrian has a statutory duty to yield the right of way to all vehicles on the roadway when crossing outside of a crosswalk.
- On roadways where there is no sidewalk, pedestrians should always walk facing traffic.
Laws For Cyclists
According to the law, anyone traveling by wheels under the power of the human body is a cyclist, whether it is a unicycle, bicycle or a custom vehicle.
Just like with pedestrians, the Tennessee Department of Transportation provides a detailed listing of laws on their website that apply to cyclists, but also offers these general guidelines:
- Ride on the right-hand side of the road with the same direction as traffic
- Obey all traffic signs and signals
- Use hand signals to communicate intended movements
- Equip their bicycles with a front white light visible from 500 feet and either a red reflector or a lamp emitting a red light which shall be visible from a distance of at least five hundred feet (500′) to the rear
Safety Tips for Pedestrians and Cyclists
- By alert by keeping your eyes several feet ahead and listening for potential dangers. This means no headphones, or only one if necessary.
- Act as though you are invisible, and never assume a motorist sees you.
- Avoid busy streets. Although bikers have the right and ability to ride on the road, avoid riding on highly trafficked streets – especially during rush hour.
- Communicate. Make sure a driver acknowledges you with eye contact or a wave before crossing in front or moving through an intersection. Use hand signals when changing direction.
- Maintain a three-foot distance between you and any vehicle.
- Always carry or wear ID. Bring your cell phone.
- Wear clothing that is brightly colored and reflective, especially when it’s dark outside.
- Make sure someone always knows what you are doing.
- Beware of blind curves and hills. Runners, jump off the road for a few feet if you need to. Cyclists, ride on the outside of the curve, even if it’s with the flow of traffic.
- Run and ride single file when you’re with a group.
Laws for Motorists
Laws for motorists are more extensive than those for pedestrians and cyclists. You apply them every day when driving to work or to school, and probably came from some driver’s education years ago. They’re designed to keep everyone on the road safe, no matter how they’re getting from Point A to Point B.
Safety Tips for Motorists
Applying a few safety tips on top of existing laws can help keep everyone on the road safe:
- Check your blind spot for bicycles and runners, especially over your right shoulder where a cyclist is most likely to be in a bike lane.
- Check your side rearview mirror before opening the driver side door, especially if parked adjacent to a bike lane.
- Use your turn signals at all times so that everyone on the road knows where you’re going and can anticipate their next move.
- When making a right turn at a stop sign, be sure to look to your right to avoid hitting a runner or pedestrian who is trying to cross the street.
- Don’t assume everyone around you will follow his or her respective laws. Make sure to follow all traffic rules, even if someone around you isn’t.
Knowing the official laws that apply to your mode of transportation, plus applying these safety tips, will help everyone do their part to stay safe this Spring.
In the next blog post, we will discuss what to do if tragedy strikes when pedestrians, cyclists and motor vehicles come in contact.