By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN
BG Independent News
Reagan Otley, 12, and a friend were bicycling down Conneaut Avenue recently when a driver laid on the car horn and scolded the girls.
“I hear a horn behind us. As they drive by, they rolled down the window and yelled, ‘Don’t take up the road with your bike,’” Reagan said.
Not one to be unjustly lectured, Reagan yelled back. After all, she and her friend were following the rules. They were on Conneaut Avenue, where signs are posted saying bikes can use the full lane, and where sharrows are painted on the road pavement.
“Bikes may use the full lane,” she shouted at the driver.
As Bowling Green is encouraging residents to bicycle in town, some of the younger cyclists are finding that some motorists aren’t very receptive to sharing the road.
“This isn’t the first time that people have honked at us for being in the road,” said Reagan, who knows the rules of the road for bicyclists. She serves as the middle school representative on the city’s Bicycle Safety Commission. And her mom is Kristin Otley, director of the city’s parks and recreation department, who has been trained through the Yay Bikes program.
“I get mad when people honk or yell at me for doing what I’m supposed to be doing,” Reagan said.
In Ohio, bicyclists are allowed to use the entire lane for travel. Motorists are supposed to give bicyclists three feet of space when passing. The Yay Bikes program, which is being used to educate bicyclists in Bowling Green, suggests that cyclists don’t ride along the road’s edge where debris lies, but rather a couple feet into the lane – about where the passenger side tire of a vehicle runs.
“They want you to own a lane,” Kristin Otley said.
Cars are supposed to pass bicyclists as if they are another motor vehicle – even if there is a double yellow line, Otley said.
Yay Bikes focuses on educating bicyclists on proper road etiquette, like using hand signals and complying with traffic signs for motor vehicles. However, it appears that local motorists may also need to brush up on the rules for sharing the road, Otley said.
Motorists may prefer bicyclists to ride on sidewalks, but that isn’t advisable except for very young children, Otley said.
“Every driveway becomes another potential intersection,” she said.
And while cyclists were advised in the past to ride against vehicular traffic, the current rules of the road advise them to ride with traffic.
Otley suspects that older drivers may be trying to be helpful when they beep at young bicyclists.
“But that actually isn’t helpful. That could startle them,” she said.
Motorists may just need to get more accustomed to sharing the road – and learning to be patient.
“It’s a mind shift,” Otley said.
“It’s all about education,” she said. The city is teaching cyclists about using local streets during monthly community rides, plus educational programs at the farmers market, and other community events. But reaching motor vehicle drivers isn’t so easy, Otley added.
“It’s about educating the drivers as well,” she said. “People just need to be a little patient.”
Kerica Bucks, a high school senior who also serves on the Bicycle Safety Commission, thinks motorists will learn as more cyclists take to the streets.
Kerica was taught early on about hand signals, awareness of traffic, and bicycling responsibilities.
“I’ve grown up with bikes. I was riding without training wheels at age 4,” she said. “I’ve felt comfortable on residential streets for a long time.”
Though she gets an occasional horn beep, overall Kerica has found local motorists easy to navigate with.
“I find that as long as I’m predictable, cars go around me,” she said.
She has noticed some impatience by motorists.
“I know I’m following the rules,” Kerica said. “I can’t really have been holding them up that much.”
Though bicyclists are allowed on any roadway in Bowling Green, cyclists are encouraged to select streets that are more accommodating to them.
“Choose your routes carefully,” Otley said.
Reagan rides her bike to the city pool, the Sundae Station, and to friends’ homes.
Kerica bicycles to the library, to the high school for band practice, to BGSU, and to the Slippery Elm Trail.
“Bowling Green is such a bikeable city,” she said. “It’s generally safe.”
Kerica is hopeful that as more cyclists become comfortable riding in the city, more motorists will see it as routine to share the road with them.
“I think it would be helpful to have more cyclists out there,” she said. “Drivers would become more accustomed. That’s how change happens.”