It was the start of the summer season this past Memorial Day weekend. Millions of people took to the roads in cars, on motorcycles and bicycles, or running, jogging and walking. If you’re a cyclist, you may decide to enjoy the Vermont countryside by biking along Lake Champlain this summer. Touring along the lake is spectacular with beautiful views of the Adirondacks and the Green Mountains.
You may find yourself in the lakeside town of Shelburne, just a few miles south of Burlington, Vermont. I have a number of good friends who are avid cyclists who live in Shelburne. Recently one of them let me know she’s really annoyed. It turns out that the Shelburne police department is ticketing bicyclists for breaking traffic laws, like not stopping for a stop sign or running a red light. I suppose there are even areas in Shelburne where a bicyclist might be in danger of getting a speeding ticket. Her complaint: Not only is it a ticket, it’s points on her license. “How is that fair? I have a license so I get a ticket. But what happens to a bicyclist who doesn’t have a driver’s license?” Good question but not the topic of an etiquette column.
The etiquette issue is about sharing the road. Regardless of whether you’ll be ticketed, showing respect for the other cyclists, pedestrians and drivers on the road is the best way for everyone to be safe. When you’re on the road, courtesy and safety are two sides of the same coin.
Too often I see lapses of civility that could easily become dangerous situations: A cyclist who blows through an intersection or a driver who simply has to pass a bicyclist, pulling into oncoming traffic when it’s not safe to do so.
Bicyclesafe.com has ten excellent tips for bicyclists to help them travel roads more safely. I especially appreciate Tip #6, The Red Light of Death: “You stop to the right of a car that's already waiting at a red light or stop sign. They can't see you. When the light turns green, you move forward, and then they turn right, right into you.” It’s a great reminder not only for cyclists but also for drivers to make it a habit to look both ways before proceeding.
The website SeattleLikesBikes pointed me to a YouTube video produced by the League of American Bicyclists. It has great tips for raising drivers’ awareness of cyclists. Six minutes of your time watching this video will help make the roads safer for everyone.
Summer’s here, and Americans are on the road – on foot, on two wheels or on four. Let’s make it a habit to be respectful of everyone else using the roads, and take an extra moment to be safe.
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About the author
Since 2004, Peter Post has tackled readers' questions in The Boston Sunday Globe's weekly business etiquette advice column, Etiquette at Work. Post is the co-author of "The Etiquette Advantage in Business" and conducts business etiquette seminars across the country. In October 2003 his book "Essential Manners For Men" was released and quickly became a New York Times best seller. He is also the author of "Essential Manners for Couples," "Playing Through–A Guide to the Unwritten Rules of Golf," and co-author of "A Wedding Like No Other." Post is Emily Post's great-grandson. His media appearances include "CBS Sunday Morning," CBS's "The Early Show," NBC's "Today," ABC's "Good Morning America," and "Fox News."