Tom Williams AT LARGE:

There is little doubt that people riding bicycles is a good thing on a couple levels.

It is good for the people on the bikes because they are getting exercise and lots of fresh air. And it is good for the environment because those bikers are not driving cars, which contribute to the serious problems of climate change.

Some communities set aside entire areas as bike paths, where cars are not permitted. Most others create bicycle lanes, usually between auto lanes and parked cars. And almost every Boardwalk has a bike lane.

Bicycles are good things and the overwhelming majority of the people riding them are careful and cooperative. But there are some problems – and some misunderstandings.

For example, some bike riders think that, like pedestrians, they have the right of way in crossing lanes. They think that cars are required, by law, to stop and let them cross.

They are wrong.

Drivers are required to stop for people on foot who have entered a crossing lane or stepped off a curb on a street corner. They are not required to stop for those on bicycles (unless the rider steps off the bike and walks beside it). In fact, bike riders are also required to stop for pedestrians preparing to cross an intersection.

Those riding bicycles should also generally ride in single file. That is the way bike lanes are set up, wide enough for one rider. Too often you see two bike riders side by side and taking up half of the auto lane.

The State of New Jersey has safety tips for bicycle riders.

“Obey all traffic laws. In New Jersey, bicycles have the same rights and responsibilities as motor vehicles. Ride on the right. Obey all traffic signals. Ride with traffic. Wear an approved bicycle helmet. Make sure the helmet fits properly. Ride within your abilities. Avoid busy streets, whenever possible. Ride a properly sized bicycle.

“Do not attempt stunts or tricks. Do not ride with more people on the bike than it is designed to accommodate. Do not hitch rides by holding on to moving vehicles. Do not weave in and out of traffic or between cars. Do not carry loads unless equipped with proper baskets or panniers. Do not ride against traffic. Do not ride on the sidewalk. Do not ride at night without lights.”

The South Jersey shore is overcrowded at this time of year. That alone creates more traffic hazards. It also brings thousands more people who want to take advantage of the good weather, the fresh seaside air and the opportunity to get some beneficial exercise on their bicycles. Not all of these bikers are like Jack Neall or George McNally – careful, law-abiding cyclists.

Remember that, although riding your bike is good for you and the environment, you should approach your ride as though you are driving your car. Every traffic law that applies to a motor vehicle also applies to those on bicycles.

And, while you’re driving your car during these busy summer months, don’t expect everybody on a bike to properly follow the rules.

Watch out for that bicycle!

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