By Tom Tuttle
It always happens at this time of year that the bicycles, pedestrian, visitors, and local drivers begin to work out how to share space in this beautiful place. I try to remind myself that everyone has an equal right and purpose as they move through our town safely and peacefully. This is especially good advice for myself when I feel like time is short and the wait (for other users) is long.
Here are some tips and safe practices I try to remember and follow along with some observations from time spent on foot, pedaling and driving.
This is a wonderful town for cycling and bicycles are a great way to get around.
Although you never forget how to ride a bike, it is said, you can forget what it is like to ride one with cars around – pretty scary! So here is my list of the most unsafe motor vehicle operator practices around bicyclists:
• Looking at or focusing on your phone
• Overtaking a cyclist then turning right in front of them
• Opening your car door into a traffic lane without checking the side view mirror first
• Passing closer than necessary. Having large side mirrors and passing closely
• Not expecting a cyclist
To be fair there are some very annoying and unsafe practices bicyclists should avoid:
• Not coming to a full stop at sign or light when vehicles are present
• Riding on the wrong side of the road
• Failing to signal turns or lane changes when vehicles are present
• Entering a street from a sidewalk, parking area or alley without stopping and or clearing traffic (vehicular or pedestrian)
• Riding on busy sidewalks
We also live in a great place to walk. Here’s my list of unsafe vehicle practices around pedestrians:
•Not respecting the cross walk. If someone is standing at a crosswalk looking at you, the driver, they want to cross
•Speeding anywhere, but especially in town where crosswalks exist
• Failing to recheck sidewalk traffic when making a turn. Example: turning right but looking left for vehicle traffic
Here are some unsafe and annoying pedestrian habits (and you thought walking seemed so simple):
• Jay-walking when vehicles or traffic is present. It is usually a very short walk to a crosswalk
• Looking at or focusing on your phone. Especially while standing at a corner crosswalk with no immediate plan or crossing
• Not giving clear body language when wanting to cross, like standing at the edge of the crosswalk, body facing in the intended direction of travel, head turned and eyes upon any vehicle at or approaching the crosswalk
• Walking side by side down the center of established bike paths or allowing one’s pet to move back and forth across the path. Please leave space for faster traffic to pass, please.
At the risk of being petty, I have just a few more tips because I care and because I walk, bike, and drive in town every day:
• At four-way stop signs it works best when all obey the vehicle on right going first. If it is confusing about who stopped first, the courtesy wave is fine but otherwise unneeded
• While in a roundabout, signal your intentions. Staying in the roundabout, use left signal, on leaving roundabout at next opening, right signal on.
• Stop at or behind the white hold line. Creeping into or braking late into a crosswalk is very unsettling for those not encased in a steel box
• Running yellow/red lights
• Assuming people can see you with parked cars, pedestrian, bicycles everywhere down town. They can’t, so driving slowly is really the only safe option
• Focusing on anything other than driving while driving.
Thank you for being a responsible, safe, and wonderful person!
Tom Tuttle is a year-round Sandpoint resident and family man. He loves to bike – on dirt and pavement, to work, for fitness and to get groceries and errands.