Bicyclists, runners and motorists can share roads safely

By Danza Johnson/NEMS Daily Journal

TUPELO – Marcus Jones’ five-mile run last week became a five-foot dive into the bushes when he was almost hit by a car.
Jones said an oncoming car was inches away from hitting him because the driver didn’t see Jones running over a hill. Diving head-first into some bushes was his only safety option. But Jones doesn’t place all the blame on the driver.
“I was too far in the road to be running over a hill,” he said. “I was well over the yellow line and my line of sight as to what was coming over the hill was very limited. So it was my mistake and it could have been my last. Thank goodness for good reflexes.”
With warm weather here, bikers, runners and walkers are joining vehicles on streets and roads, which means everyone needs to know the rules. Tupelo Police Sgt. Tim Clouse said bicyclists and runners have just as much right to the roads as vehicles do.
“You see people running and riding bikes all the time now in all areas of the city,” Clouse said. “So motorists need to be a lot more aware that they are out there. And runners and bikers also need to show respect to motorists.”
After Tupelo High School student and cyclist John Paul Frerer was killed in August while riding his bike to Oxford on state Highway 6, the Legislature passed a bill to better protect cyclists. In March, the John Paul Frerer Bicycle Safety Act, which includes a three-foot passing law for motorists, was passed. It goes into effect July 1.
Some of the provisions of the bill are:
• While passing a bicyclist on a roadway, a motorist shall leave a safe distance of not less than three feet between his vehicle and the bicyclist and shall maintain such clearance until safely past the bicycle.
• A motor vehicle operator may pass a bicycle traveling in the same direction in a non-passing zone with the duty to execute the pass only when it is safe to do so.
• The operator of a vehicle that passes a bicyclist proceeding in the same direction may not make a right turn at any intersection or into any highway or driveway unless the turn can be made with reasonable safety.
Natchez Trace Parkway Superintendent Cameron Sholly said he commends the Legislature for passing the bill. It was on the Parkway that two cyclists were killed in 2009: Esther Hagemen of the Netherlands, who was hit by an SUV near Houston, and David B. Allison Sr., 48, of Queen Creek, Ariz., who was struck by a car in Prentiss County.
Sholly said anything that assures the safety of everyone on the Natchez Trace is a good thing.
“There are 13 million people who travel the Trace, so public safety is our top priority,” said Sholly. “We want everyone, whether in a vehicle or on a bike to enjoy themselves when on the Trace. It’s going to take a cooperative effort between all parties involved to assure safety for everyone.”
Clouse said both motorists and people running and biking should know the rules.
“When you ride a bike, you go by the same rules that someone riding in a car does,” said Clouse. “You ride with the traffic, you stop at the red light and at stop signs. When running, you run facing traffic so you can see what’s coming. When driving you give bikers or runners three feet before passing them. These are rules that if everyone follows them, people should be able to enjoy the roads safely.”

Contact Danza Johnson at (662) 678-1583 or danza.johnson@djournal.com.

Rules for runners:
• When jogging or walking, do so facing traffic. You always want to see what’s coming toward you.
• Always wear light-colored clothing that is visible to motorists.
• Try not to run at night and if you do, wear reflective gear.
• Run in familiar areas.

Rules for bicyclists:
• Always ride with the flow of the traffic.
• Follow the same rules of the road as if you were driving a vehicle.
• Use hand signals when making turns.
• Wear visible clothing.
• If riding at night, make sure you have a flashing light on your bike.
Source: Tupelo Police Department