We can finally see the light at the end of a long winter tunnel. With the warmer weather and rapidly disappearing snow cover, more and more bicyclists will be sharing the road with motorists. Milly Ortiz, of the Iowa Department of Transportation’s (DOT) Office of Systems Planning, said, “In Iowa, bicyclists have the same right to the roadway as motor vehicle drivers, and they are bound by the same laws. Using caution, both on the part of the bicyclist and motorist, can assure the road is shared safely.”

Safety tips for motorists

  • Do not honk your vehicle’s horn at a bicyclist. That action may startle the bicyclist and cause the person to lose control of the bike.
  • Use extra caution when passing a bicyclist. Move entirely into the left lane on a two-lane road. Do not pass a bicycle if oncoming traffic is near. Wait for safe road and traffic conditions before you pass.
  • Be aware of the bicyclist’s movements. The bicyclist may need to swerve to avoid road hazards, such as potholes, debris, drainage grates and railroad tracks.
  • Be careful when opening your vehicle’s door on a roadside. Road widths often force bicyclists to ride close to parked vehicles where they may be injured by an opening door.
  • Watch for children. Children on bicycles are often unpredictable and might not know the traffic laws. Because of their size, children can be harder to see.
  • Be considerate. Allow extra time for bicyclists to traverse intersections.
  • When in doubt, yield to the bicyclist.

Safety tips for bicyclists

  • Always wear a helmet.
  • Ride in the right lane, except when passing another vehicle, preparing for a left turn or avoiding hazards.
  • Always ride with the flow of traffic.
  • Obey traffic signs and signals. Use hand signals to advise motorists you plan to turn, change lanes or stop.
  • Make eye contact with motorists. Never assume a motorist sees you or that you have the right of way. Expect the unexpected, such as parked vehicles pulling into traffic, vehicle doors opening into your path and debris on the road.
  • At night, use a headlight, taillight and reflectors to be more easily seen by motorists.

In addition to these tips, Ortiz reminds bicyclists that the Iowa DOT has produced a transportation map specifically for their travel needs. The Iowa Transportation Map for Bicyclists shows hundreds of miles of multiuse trails that pass through woodlands, prairies and parks – all highlighting the beauty of Iowa’s landscapes. In addition, traffic levels are indicated for all paved roadways so bicyclists can choose the road routes that match their level of riding experience to enhance safety.

Information highlighted on the back of the map includes trail maps of the state’s largest cities, a summary of Iowa bicycling laws, information about 52 multiuse trails that are five miles or longer, cycling safety tips and contacts, including Web sites, for additional information on cycling in Iowa. For more information on bicycling or to order a bike map, log on to http://www.iowadot.gov/iowabikes/