Every year, the City of Carmel celebrates May as National Bike Month with events such as Bike to Work Day and Bike to School Day. But this year, city officials wanted to do more through an awareness campaign to educate cyclists and motorists about key safety laws.
The city is focusing on two important rules. For cyclists, it’s that they are required to stop at all road crossings. For motorists, it’s that they have to allow three feet when passing cyclists riding in the street.
“We don’t need to change any laws,” City Councilor Bruce Kimball said. “We just want to raise awareness for everyone. We’re actually a really safe city with very few accidents. Statistically, cycling is safer than driving a car. But we just thought this might clear up some misconceptions.”
The rules at the Monon crossing have been an issue of confusion for many on the street and on the pathway. Some motorists stop and wave through cyclists on the trail in the Carmel Arts & Design District. As a result, some cyclists don’t realize they have to stop at the sign.
“There has been some confusion over the years,” said David Littlejohn, alternative transportation coordinator for the City of Carmel. “Technically, Monon users are required to stop at every crossing. So we put up some yard signs and they will hopefully get the point across.”
Once a pedestrian or cyclist steps in the street, that person has the right of way and is allowed to finish crossing and vehicles must stop. While many motorists decide to stop for cyclists to be polite, Kimball said a cyclist should always be careful because a motorist in the opposite direction might not decide to stop.
Littlejohn said the city might also place bumper stickers on its vehicles that say, “Pass at three feet. It’s the law.”
While some cyclists prefer multi-use paths and sidewalks, many high-speed cyclists prefer to ride on bike lanes or the street, and they are allowed to do so under the law, Kimball said.
He said it shouldn’t be less safe for a cyclist to commute on the road, as long as everyone is courteous and provides a buffer.
“Just remember, that cyclist is someone’s son or daughter or mother or father,” he said. “We want everybody to share the road.”
Carmel will host Bike to Work Day May 20. Participants can meet from 6 to 9 a.m. at the Monon Community Center for a free continental breakfast before heading to work.
Bike to School Day was held May 4, and six Carmel Clay elementary schools participated.
Carmel has been designated a bronze level Bicycle Friendly Community by the League of American Bicyclists from 2006 through 2019.
“We are continually improving facilities for bicycles by making trail connectivity a priority and improving pathways. The 5.2-mile Monon Greenway and more than 175 miles of paths and trails in Carmel encourage residents to think about using their bicycles more often as a form of transportation,” Carmel Mayor Jim Brainard stated. “We hope these events in May draw more attention to bicycling in our community.”