Cyclists, like motor vehicle drivers, are required by law to follow the rules of the road. But many cyclists do not know the laws that apply to them, or choose not to heed them. A newly implemented program called the Bicycle Diversion Program has the courts, enforcement entities and bicycle safety experts collaborating to educate cyclists who are cited for violating traffic laws.
Beginning June 1 cyclists ages 16 and older who are cited for traffic violations may be offered the option in court of attending a Bicycle Diversion Program – a two hour class that costs a sum of $55 (an amount much lower that the citation fee). Classes are scheduled for the third Monday of each month for the remainder of the year, and are taught by Brian Potwin, a League of American Bicyclists Certified Instructor.
The new program, in discussion for some time, realizes the collaboration between the Bend and Redmond Police Departments, the municipal court system, and Commute Options (for whom Potwin also teaches Safe Routes to School pedestrian and bicycle safety classes).
“Just as we educate school children on the rules of the road, we would like to educate other cyclists who may be practicing unsafe riding,” said Potwin. In the two-hour class, Potwin spends one hour in the classroom addressing specific citations and emphasizing use of communication to create a fluid and dynamic relationship with all roadway users. The other hour is spent on bicycles, working on practical roadway skills which incorporate the law and how to avoid crashes.
When local police offers write citations to cyclists they are mostly looking at specific areas of the law, said Potwin. Riding at night without lights, wrong way riding, standard traffic violations (failure to stop at a red light or stop sign) and riding under the influence are some of the more common violations that are cited.
“The bicycle is a vehicle and bicyclists have the same rights and duties as the driver of any other vehicle,” said Potwin.
“Enforcement is currently the method in which we can access the community and get them into the classroom,” said Potwin. “The purpose of this program is to create a more educated cycling community to prevent future citations.”
Violators who attend the Bicycle Diversion Program will learn important safety guidelines (such as to be predictable, visible, alert, assertive and courteous on the roadways) and the basic rules of traffic. They will also learn about laws that pertain to their bicycle equipment. For instance, all cyclists are required to have a white front light visible up to 500 feet and a red rear reflector visible up to 600 feet.
“I would rather educate cyclists before they get a citation,” said Potwin. Anyone who would like instruction on the traffic laws that apply to cyclists and how to create safe cycling habits may also contact Brian Potwin (firstname.lastname@example.org) for education opportunities that exist before a citation is given.
Commute Options promotes choices that reduce the impacts of driving alone. For more information about Commute Options, contact Jeff Monson, Executive Director of Commute Options at 541-330-2647 or visit www.commuteoptions.org.
Annissa Anderson is a freelance writer and public relations consultant in Bend.