The vast majority of us drive our cars to take care us to our jobs and serve our family’s needs. As we drive around are we increasingly seeing more people walking or bicycling along the side of the road.In the Gulf Coast we live in a resort community so these activities aren’t at all unusual and are not limited to only one specific time of the year. Apparently, what people do not know or choose to ignore is that there are laws and regulations that pertain to these activities.
An interview with Officer Berrey of the Gulf Shores Police Department provided some insights into this. Gulf Shores has three bike qualified and trained officers who regularly patrol on bicycles. Gulf Shores has a helmet regulation, which requires children 16 years old and younger to wear a helmet. There are areas in Gulf Shores that are off limits to bicycles. Gulf Shores has designated bike lanes along the front beach and in other areas of the community. Contact Gulf Shores P.D. for detailed information. Officer Berrey indicated that there were no specific regulations for people walking.
A talk with Orange Beach Chief of Police Robert L. Vinson indicated that a combination bike and walk way is currently available along most of route 161 with more to come. These additional walk/bike ways will go in on Cat Man Road and from the junction of route 161 and canal road east to the Senior Center and west to the Beach Expressway entrance. The Chief indicated that while Orange Beach has no specific ordinances dealing with bicycles it enforces State laws. He further indicated the front beach road through Orange Beach does NOT have a designated bike lane. It is an improved shoulder.
The front beach area of the road between those two white lines is either side of the road with the half to inch deep grooves are NOT for bicycling. It’s designed to warn drivers when they are leaving the roadway. It is always dangerous and most often impossible to bike on those ripples. Bikers and walkers must share the improved shoulder or bikers can go out into the traffic lane. Be very careful about getting out into traffic when you don’t have to. Chief Vinson indicated that there were no specific regulations in Orange Beach for people walking.
A bicycle must follow the same traffic rules and regulations as a motor vehicle (32-5A-260). This also means that motor vehicles must yield the right of way to bicycles just as if a bike were a car. Unless a bicycle is designed to carry more than one person the rule is only one person per bike (32-5A-261). There is no riding your friends on the handlebars or anywhere else. Some people like to pull their friends along with them while their riding bikes, skates, skateboards, coasters or toys. It isn’t allowed (32-5A-262).
There are rules for riding bikes on the roadways or bike paths (32-5A-263):
- Every person operating a bicycle upon a roadway shall ride as near to the right side of the road as practicable, exercising due care when passing a standing vehicle or one proceeding in the same direction.
- Persons riding bicycles upon a roadway shall not ride more than two abreast except on paths or parts of roadways set aside for the exclusive use of bicycles.
- Wherever a usable path for bicycles has been provided adjacent to a roadway, bicycle riders shall use such path and shall not use the roadway.
There is a rule for carrying articles on bicycles. â€œNo person operating a bicycle shall carry any package, bundle or article which prevents the driver from keeping at least one hand upon the handlebars (32-5A-264).
To operate a bicycle at night it must be equipped with a lamp emitting a white light and an approved red rear reflector. A red rear lamp may be used in addition to the rear reflector. Every bicycle shall be equipped with a brake, which will enable the operator to make the braked wheels skid on a dry, level and clean pavement (32-5A -265).
- It is a misdemeanor for any person to do any act, forbidden or fail to perform any act required in this article.
- The parent of any child and the guardian of any ward shall not authorize or knowingly permit any such child or ward to violate any of the provisions of this chapter.
- These regulations applicable to bicycles shall apply whenever a bicycle is operated upon any highway or upon any path set aside for the exclusive use of bicycles subject to those exceptions stated therein.
I have been biking regularly for health reason for the last 14 years and have put in thousands of miles along the routes mentioned. If we all follow the maxim set out in the title of this article ‘Walk Against – Bike With’ all types of traffic will flow smoothly and there will be much less chance for accidents. If it’s followed bikers will met pedestrians head on and have plenty of time to see each other and get out of the way. Bikes should move to their left in single file and pedestrians to their left in single file. If you’re walking or biking on the wrong side of the road the biker will come behind walkers. The biker doesn’t know what the walker is going to do and the walker doesn’t even know the biker’s there. This is especially dangerous when walkers are two and three abreast as it forces the biker out into traffic.
Vehicles should stop before pulling out into the bike lane or improved shoulder and look both ways. I have three broken ribs and a broken arm to say that many people don’t do this. When vehicles make a turn where’s a bicycle lane don’t pull into that lane. Why? It’s a dangerous practice and if the police catch you it’s a moving violation even if bikes are not present.
When biking I regularly see more than a few bad biking examples. The one that I hate the most is a parent biking with children who’re wearing helmets but the parents aren’t. What kind of example is that? Don’t do as I do, do as I say? That was my father’s favorite saying when he lit up a cigar.
Almost 40 years ago I raced motto-cross when I lived in Japan and have seen first hand the results of both closed and open head injuries. It isn’t pretty and if the individual survives the injury its effects are life long. In Gulf Shores the law may not require a helmet if you’re over 16 and you may legally be in the right not wearing one but ‘You can also be dead right’. Helmets are available for everyone at your local bike shops, shopping malls and on-line.
If we all use common sense and courtesy while we’re out there on the roadways and it will be a safe and enjoyable experience for everyone. The interviewed officers reviewed this article prior to submission for publication. Contact your local police department for further information.
Check with the local police for regulation updates.
Think Global – Act Local!