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Oliver: Here’s to the season of sharing (the road)

Published: Tuesday, April 29, 2014 11:25 p.m. CDT

From the looks of last weekend, we’ve finally made it back outside.

Where have you all been? Like me, you probably spent the past few months, during our interminably long winter, trying to leave the house as little as possible.

When we did venture out, we probably had to worry only about dodging snowplows, other motorists in four-wheel-drive vehicles, and the occasional wind-blown garbage can in the roadway.

Of course, traversing streets covered in snow, ice and road salt, coupled with the onset of a plethora of potholes, was not easy. But now that the weather has gotten considerably nicer, this is no time to let our guard down.

Sure, the snow and ice is gone, but now we’ll all have to get used to sharing the road with runners, bicyclists and motorcyclists. I’ve already heard some grumbling about bad bicyclist behavior, and no doubt those who ride their bikes on our county roads already have seen some ill-advised moves from passing cars and trucks.

So in the spirit of trying to be helpful to both sides, here are a few safety tips from the Illinois Secretary of State’s Office.

• Bicyclists are required to travel in the same direction as vehicles.

• Bicyclists should travel just to the right of faster-moving traffic whenever possible. Certain conditions, such as broken glass, drain grates, parked cars, left turns and passing, allow a bicyclist to move farther to the left, if necessary.

• Drivers must yield the right-of-way to a bicycle just as they would to another vehicle.

• When passing a bicyclist, motorists must do so slowly and leave at least 3 feet of passing space. Crowding or threatening a bicyclist is prohibited.

• When following bicyclists, motorists should give them plenty of room and be prepared to stop quickly. Use extra caution during rainy weather.

• At night, do not use high beams when you see an oncoming bicyclist. After parking and before opening vehicle doors, check for bicyclists.

More information on Illinois bicycle safety laws and tips can be found at www.cyberdriveillinois.com and at www.dot.state.il.us/bikemap/safekids/safebike.pdf.

The Illinois Secretary of State’s Office also points out that runners and walkers should use designated paths where provided.

On public roads, they should face oncoming traffic and remember to look and listen for cars. At night, they should stay in well-lighted areas and wear reflective clothing. And let’s not forget to stay alert and considerate of motorcyclists on the roads, as well.

They must follow the same rules as the rest of us motorists. But because they are a lot smaller than the average vehicle, we need to pay special attention to them and give them room.

Although they are not required, helmets for both bicyclists and motorcyclists are a good idea. Please use them and have your children get into the habit of wearing them as early as possible.

If we all use a little common sense and consideration, we’ll all get to enjoy the warmer months safely.

• Joan Oliver is the former Northwest Herald assistant news editor. She has been associated with the Northwest Herald since 1990. She can be reached at jolivercolumn@gmail.com.

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