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Recently, Los Alamos bicycling enthusiast Khal Spencer, LAPD Captain Randy Foster, police chief Wayne Torpy, Traffic Division Manager Nancy Talley, and Traffic Engineer Kyle Zimmerman met to discuss bicycle safety in the county.
There has been a spike in bicycle and vehicle collisions this year with three since April, Foster said. And there have been a number of near misses, Spencer added.
The group was trying to find ways to reduce such collisions.
Foster said the most dangerous area seems to be Diamond Drive between Sandia and the bridge. There are numerous entrances into parking lots that are not at intersections and those create the potential for bike/car collisions, Foster said.
Diamond Drive recently installed new bike lanes and the group said portions of the law are not exactly clear, but the law on changing lanes is clear.
“When turning right across a bike lane, you as the motorist are moving out of your lane and across the bike lane. The same applies to a bicyclist leaving the bike lane to make a left turn,” Foster said.
Another example was whenever any street has been divided into two or more clearly marked lanes for traffic, the following rules in addition to all others consistent should apply:
• A vehicle shall be driven as nearly as practicable entirely within a single lane and shall not be moved from such lane until the driver has first ascertained that such movement can be made with safety.
“The law is in black and white and reinforces best practice. Some of the scary interactions leading to close calls and crashes are in the shades of grey area of applying the law, or are caused by inattention. Safe, alert, defensive driving and biking can keep you out of harm’s way,” Foster said.
The group then suggested the following guidelines for motorists and cyclists.
If you are the motorist:
• If you are planning a right turn on a road with bike lanes, make sure you watch to see if you have safely overtaken a cyclist before going into your turn. The act of turning causes you to slow down and that cyclist you passed may have caught up to you.
• Signal your turn in advance and check your blind spot before turning to make sure there is not a bicyclist on your right or about to overtake you.
• If you see a cyclist slightly in front of you and you are approaching a right turn, it is wise to let the cyclist proceed through the intersection and turn behind the cyclist. Speeding up to pass the cyclist and then slowing down to turn can result in a crash.
• Cyclists and motorcyclists are more vulnerable than you are. A crash with a bicyclist or motorcyclist can cause more serious bodily injury. Train yourself to be aware of these smaller vehicles.
If you are the cyclist:
• Watch for motor vehicles slowing down and using their turn signals as you approach intersections and driveways. If a motorist is slowing down as he approaches an intersection, whether or not he is indicating a turn, he may be preparing to turn right across your path. You need to work together.
• If you speed up to pass a motorist on the motorist’s right, you are in that motorist’s blind spot and he can’t see you. That could result in a crash if you pass on the right while approaching an intersection or when passing a driveway and the motorist indeed turns.
• If motor vehicle traffic is slowed down due to heavy demand, be aware of locations where a motorist can turn across your path. Ride defensively at an appropriate speed, keep your head up, and be observant.
• If you are traveling at the speed of traffic in a busy area or one where the bike lane may not be clearly visible from side streets or parking lot entrances, one can signal and merge out of the bike lane (safely ) or slow down to a prudent speed in the bike lane.
• Cyclists and motorcyclists are more vulnerable than motorists and you are not as visible as a car. You must take this into account and ride your bicycle (or motorcycle) with extra awareness for your own safety. Stay alert, practice situational awareness, and always wear a helmet to protect your head in the unlikely event of a crash.