Bicycle safety takes to the road in Oxford

OXFORD – Helmeted people riding the streets, bike lanes and trails around Oxford may play a role in making bike safety a bigger issue statewide.
Classes taught over the weekend in Oxford, the state’s first Bicycle Friendly Community, are a part of Mississippi’s efforts to certify 30 new safety instructors, both to make biking safer in the state and to promote more use of biking for recreation and transportation.
The Mississippi Department of Transportation’s “Safe Routes to School” program is sponsoring the training in conjunction with Bike/Walk Mississippi.
“In exchange for support from the Mississippi Department of Transportation for the training, each participant will commit to providing five courses in the coming year to local schools, youth groups and community organizations,” said Dr. Mike Mossing, chairman of Oxford’s Pathways Commission and one of the town’s most energetic boosters of bicycling.
Chris Daigle, a Louisiana-based trainer for the League of American Bicyclists, taught a basic traffic skills course on Thursday and a LCI certification class Friday through Sunday.
“We teach what amounts to a defensive driving class for cyclists,” he said. “Because you’re a more vulnerable vehicle, you have to be more aware of what’s going on around you.”
The classes, whether basic or advanced, focus on five key principles – bike control, following traffic laws, proper positioning within one’s lane, hazard avoidance skills and protective gear.
“Unfortunately, a lot of people’s safety advice begins and ends with, ‘Wear a helmet,’” Daigle said.
Particularly dangerous – and particularly common – Daigle said, is riding a bicycle in the wrong lane.
“When you ride against traffic, you can’t see the traffic signs, and you appear in places where people don’t expect you,” Daigle said. “It’s not only illegal but stupid. The car can slow down behind you until it’s safe to pass, but the car can’t stop and back up in his lane to avoid you.”
What should motorists know about bike safety?
“Bicyclists have a right to use the road, and by law they must use the road,” Daigle said. “Pass them with plenty of room. Expect them to follow traffic laws. That’s my advice for police officers, also: Give bicyclists a ticket if they violate the law.”
Daigle said bicycles are the most efficient, convenient mode of transportation for short trips.
“It’s the only vehicle that makes you healthier the more you use it,” he said. “We’re promoting fair, safe use of the roads for everybody.”

Contact Errol Castens at (662) 281-1069 or errol.castens@djournal.com.