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Potsdam Police issue bicycle safety warnings

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POTSDAM - The Potsdam Police Department would like to inform the public of bicycle safety and rules of the road for bicyclists. Between the years of 2009-2011, in St. Lawrence County there were 37 bicycle/motor vehicle crashes. Of those, there were 35 bicyclists injured and one death. (There are no statistics for bicycle accidents that did not involve a motor vehicle.) The use of approved safety equipment and obeying the laws meant for bicyclists will help reduce these numbers, which is the goal of not only Potsdam PD, but all law enforcement agencies.

All cyclists should wear an approved helmet because a fall from a bike could cause severe or fatal injuries. Anyone under the age of 14 is required to wear a helmet by the NYS Vehicle and Traffic Law. The law also requires that “wearing a helmet means having a properly fitting helmet fixed securely on the head of such wearer with the helmet straps securely fastened” (VTL Section 1238 subdivision 5-b). Clothing with bright colors should also be worn so that the cyclist is easily seen by motorists, pedestrians, and other cyclists. All cyclists should do a pre-ride check of the bicycle to make sure all equipment is functioning properly.

All laws pertaining to the operation of bicycles and other play devises (ie. In-line skates, skateboards, etc.) can be found in Article 34 of the NYS VTL (Sections 1230-1241). Some of these laws are as follows:

All cyclists are subject to the same traffic laws and rights as a motor vehicle operator. This includes stopping at red lights and stop signs, stopping at crosswalks when a pedestrian is in or entering the crosswalk, signaling turns, yielding right of way at intersections, etc. Motorists should be aware that cyclists have the right of way when the motorist is turning.

No bicycle shall be used to carry more persons at one time than the number of for which it is designed and equipped.

Bicycles shall be ridden on the right side of the roadway as far right as possible. The exception to this is when making a left turn. In that case, the cyclist, using proper hand signals, should move to the proper lane to make the turn. (Bicycles move with traffic, pedestrians walking on the roadway face traffic.)

At night, all bicycles shall be equipped with a white light on the front and a red or amber light on the rear.

All signals required to be given are as follows:

Left Turn - left hand and arm extended horizontally.

Right Turn - left hand and arm extended upward or right hand and arm extended horizontally.

Stop or Decrease Speed - Left hand and arm extended downward.

All turns are to be made by using these signals and the cyclist needs to make sure that it is safe to change lanes.

The village of Potsdam Municipal Code follows the NYS VTL with regards to bicycles. Children under the age of 11 are allowed to ride on the sidewalk within the village. The Potsdam Police Department will begin actively enforcing these laws as well as continued enforcement of pedestrian safety laws. There will be a period of time in which officers will give warnings when a violation is observed and instruct the person how to properly ride in traffic. Again, the goal of this campaign is for safety, not tickets.

As always, if anyone has any questions regarding these laws or pedestrian laws, contact the Potsdam Police Department at 265-2121.

Mary Davison of the St. Lawrence County Traffic Safety Program compiled the statistics for Potsdam Police from the Institute for Traffic Safety Management and Research and provided other information regarding bicycle and pedestrian safety. For further information, she can be reached at 379-2306.

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