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Bicycle safety - an important issue in Hawaii

Bicycle safety - an important issue in Hawaii

May 16, 2014

More than a decade ago, Hawaii officials recognized that bicycle accidents were occurring too often and embarked on a plan to improve safety for cyclists. So National Bike Month in May has special resonance on the islands.

The state reported two bicyclist fatalities in 2012 and two in 2011, an improvement from a decade earlier when the Department of Health said bicyclist deaths were averaging about six per year.

The Hawaii Department of Transportation’s master plan created a guide for improving the bicycle environment. The goal was to establish bicycling as a safe and convenient method of transportation for residents and visitors through:

Engineering — Planning and designing new and better transportation facilities to allow bicyclists of all abilities to ride safely.

Education — Expanding safety awareness to reduce crashes and increase ridership.

Enforcement — Stepping up prevention of illegal and reckless driving and bicycling.

Encouragement — Promoting personal and community benefits of bicycling through brochures and maps to increase bicycle trips.

BIKE MONTH IN HONOLULU

In Honolulu, Mayor Kirk Caldwell has proclaimed May as Bike Month and has proposed $1.4 million in biking infrastructure improvements including bicycle lanes.

KITV reports that the new bike infrastructure would help accommodate 1,700 bikes to be available at bikeshare stations in urban Honolulu by late 2015.

LOW ‘BIKEABILITY?’

Nonetheless, the League of American Bicyclists ranks the state’s “bikeability” as 40th among the 50 states for 2014.

The League assessed states’ performance in five categories: legislation and enforcement, policies and programs, infrastructure and funding, education and encouragement, and evaluation and planning. It gave Hawaii its lowest scores in the categories of policies and programs and infrastructure and funding.

SAFETY TIPS

Warm weather makes the Hawaiian Islands the perfect place for bicyclists to enjoy the natural beauty. Motorists should be on the lookout for riders – and pedestrians – many of whom are tourists trying to find the next interesting site.

Motorists should be aware that:

  • Motorists are at fault in most crashes with bicycles.
  • Bicycles are legal vehicles, and bicyclists must follow the same traffic rules as motorists.
  • Bicyclists have different skill levels.
  • Some bicyclists may be traveling 25 to 30 mph. Take note of their speed when changing lanes or preparing to make a right turn.
  • Beware of bicyclists dodging hazards in their path. They could swerve to miss a pothole, so be prepared to avoid them.

The state urges bicyclists to follow these safety tips:

  • Always wear a helmet when you ride, even for short trips.
  • Follow all traffic laws and remember your bicycle is a vehicle.
  • Ride with the direction of traffic, never against it.
  • Go in a straight line and avoid swerving.
  • Make sure motorists can see you by wearing light-colored clothes and a bright helmet.

Bike Plan Hawaii appears to be making the islands’ roadways safer for bicyclists and pedestrians. But any fatalities are too many. Motorists who are at fault in bicycle accidents should be held accountable for the injuries they cause. Bicyclists have legal rights to claim compensation when they are injured through the fault of other drivers.

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