Cycling safety a concern

Whether due to
economic pressures, environmental concerns or for health reasons, more people
than ever seem to be out on their bicycles. Unfortunately, sharing the road
seems to be a problem made worse by road infrastructure not always suited to
supporting other modes of transport alongside the car, as well as by people on
bicycles ignoring the basic rules of the road.

As defined under the
Traffic Law, a bicycle is considered a vehicle. Even though it is not a
motorised vehicle, being propelled by human energy, it does mean that its use
is governed by sections of the law that apply to vehicles not otherwise defined
within the specific section of the law.

In similar fashion,
a driver is defined as the driver of any kind of vehicle, therefore including a
bicycle, which means that all sections of the law not otherwise defined and
relating to drivers will include cyclists.

According to police
statistics, the number of accidents involving bicycles have fluctuated greatly
over the past couple of years. In 2006, 33 accidents were reported. This
dropped to only 17 accidents in 2007, but jumped to 40 in 2008. In 2009 there
were 29 accidents, with 13 reported so far this year.

However, it is quite
possible that the number of accidents are under- reported. The RCIPS also said
that statistics on bicycle offences are not collated as bicycles are not
considered motor vehicles under the Traffic Law. However, it does not take
police statistics to know that there are issues with bicycle safety on Cayman’s
roads.

 

Going the wrong way

One of the greatest
issues encountered by road users is cyclists travelling against the flow of
traffic. This is in clear contravention of section 60 (b) of the Traffic Law,
which states that it is the duty of “every person driving any kind of vehicle”
on a road “to keep to the left half of the road except when travelling in a
oneway”.

Some residents who
come from other countries are used to cycling on the right hand side of the
road and even though they would not for one second consider doing this in a
motor vehicle in Cayman, they continue to do so on bicycles. However, the
bigger problem relates to people who graduate to cycling from being a
pedestrian. As pedestrians are supposed to walk facing oncoming traffic, it is
natural for many who progress to cycling to do exactly the same. However, this
is more dangerous than cycling with the flow of traffic and made even more so
by the fact that many cyclists do follow the rules of the road. When two
cyclists traveling in opposite directions meet on the same side of the road,
one has to swerve to avoid a collision, which can often lead to a collision
with an oncoming motor vehicle.

 

Visibility

As the bicycle
serves as the main means of transport for a significant portion of the
population, there are bicycles on the roads at all times of the day, from
before sun

-up to well after
sundown. This makes it essential for bicycles to be equipped not only with
reflectors, but also with lights front and rear.

Under section 60(n)
of the Traffic Law, it is the duty of anyone who operates a vehicle “to keep
illuminated by night the rear light or lights, the front or head light” and
therefore not having working lights on a bicycle after dark is in contravention
of the law.

The Cayman Islands
Road Safety Advisory Committee also suggest wearing light

-coloured clothing
or a reflective vest when using a bicycle after dark.

Many cyclists
believe that having reflectors on a bicycle is sufficient, but unless the light
from an oncoming vehicle falls on them, they are invisible not only to that
vehicle but to all other vehicles, including those intending to turn into a
road from a side road. Reflectors also do nothing to help make cyclists visible
to pedestrians, thus cyclists and pedestrians run a serious risk of collision,
as they share the side of the road.

 

Protect yourself

The leading cause of
serious injury and death among cyclists is head trauma. Although wearing a
helmet while cycling is not a requirement under the law, the Cayman Islands
Road Safety Advisory Committee strongly advises cyclists to wear helmets, no
matter what type of cycling they are engaging in. This point of view is echoed
by the Cayman Islands Cycling Association, which governs competitive cycling in
Cayman.

“The cycling
association is very strict on the wearing of approved helmets during their
events, and advises all cyclists to wear a helmet at all times, whether racing,
training, riding socially or simply travelling to work.

“In some European
countries it is unlawful to ride a bicycle without wearing a helmet and you can
be stopped by the police and fined on the spot,” said Steve Abbott, president
of the association.

 

Follow the rules

Stop signs and red
traffic lights apply to all vehicle

s, bicycles
included. Running a red light while cycling is an offence under the traffic
law, just as when done in a car. It also exposes the cyclist to danger, as
drivers may not anticipate traffic from that direction and therefore be unable
to avoid a collision.

 

Sticking to the road

Cyclists should
remain on the driving surface of the road at all times, as they are not allowed
on the pavement. This is borne out in the definition of pavement in the Traffic
Law, which states that it is an area of the road reserved solely for use by
pedestrians and to the exclusion of all vehicles.

 

Swerving into
traffic

Many people who
cycle to work seem to lack basic bike handling skills and are often on
overloaded or unroadworthy bicycles. Add mobile phone use and smoking to the
mix and the result is a lethally unstable cocktail. Many a time these riders
swerve into traffic when they momentarily lose control of their bikes. It does
not take much for them to swerve in front of cars, which due to the inherent
vulnerability of cyclists, can lead to serious injury or death.

 

No passengers

Unless you are
riding a tandem, bicycles are meant for one person and one person only. Under
section 82(1)(w) of the Traffic law, it is an offence to carry an unauthorised
pillion passenger on a bicycle, which makes it illegal to have more than one
person travelling on a regular bicycle.

In spite of all the
challenges faced on the road, cyclists can improve their safety by adhering to
the rules of the road and in doing so can help prevent the adversarial
relationship that often exists between cyclists and motorists.

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