Use and treat bikes as vehicles

As more people get outside to enjoy National Bike Month they should also be aware of the safest places to ride. Some stick to the sidewalks but in some areas that isn't allowed.

Signs in downtown Cape Girardeau read "Bicycling prohibited on Sidewalks," and those with years of experience say they share the road within these areas.

"A bicycle it is a vehicle and they are supposed to be on the road," said John Dodd, who has been cycling his whole life. "I look for areas that are low traffic, and have a lot of space on the road."

Cape Girardeau Sgt Rick Schmidt said lane markings and road signs let motorists know to share the road with bikes and says everyone needs to follow the same traffic laws.

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"Bikers have signals to alert motorists in front of them or behind them, whether they're turning left, right, are going to slow down or stop," Schmidt said. "When you come to an intersection pay attention to posted stop signs or a traffic signals, and make sure everybody is seen and stays safe."

When riding on a road, Dodd said he tries to make himself visible to vehicles but is always on high alert just in case they don't see him.

"I'm always covering my break, just like you would in a car, and being extra vigilant on all of my surroundings, and scanning and ready," Dodd said. "You're helping yourself out a lot. Accidents can still happen, but it minimizes it."

Other safe areas for families to ride their bikes including recreational trails and residential sidewalks, but Schmidt says biking is not allowed commercial sidewalks because they're smaller and more crowded.

"You don't want a bicycle on the sidewalk there are pedestrians going back and forth, people are doing their shopping and they're not paying attention to cyclists. It could be bad," he said.

Before you head out on any bike ride, Dodd suggests filling up your tires with air, putting on your helmet and increase your visibility by wearing bright colors and using lights during the day and night.

"The important thing there is you give cars and other people time to react," Dodd said. "Issues with cyclists and people on the road happen when you surprise somebody, so you want to give that person in a car a buffer zone so they can pass you when the want to."

According to the Missouri bicycle rules of the road, when a motorist encounters a cyclist, the vehicle should slow down and try to recognize hazards the biker may face. Before passing a bike, drivers should wait for safe road and traffic conditions and leave four feet of space between the motor vehicle and the cyclist.

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