Article published Jun 20, 2006 in the Hattiesburg American
Bicyclists, please obey rules of the road and be safe

School's out for summer.

Oh, happy day for the youngsters.

We see them in their yards, we see them at the ballparks, we see them at the mall, we see them riding their bikes.

Unfortunately, we're seeing way too much of them on their bikes, in the middle of the road, on the wrong side of the road, not paying attention to automobile traffic.

"If they're on the road, the same rules apply to cyclists as cars," said Nancy Munn of the Hattiesburg Bicycle Center. "That means they are supposed to be on right side of the street, traveling with traffic, not facing it."

When a car comes to a stop sign, it is supposed to stop. Same with bicyclists. Stop at the stop sign. Make sure traffic is clear before continuing.

And automobile drivers must realize that cyclists have a right to the road. A driver should not pass a bicyclist if he can't move entirely into the other lane. In other words, pass a cyclist just like you would a car.

Every summer, we hear about a bicyclist getting hit by a car. And when the victim is a child, it seems so much worse.

Munn says that kids need to use common sense when riding, and their parents need to use it, too, when letting their kids ride bikes.

"It goes without saying that they need to wear a helmet," Munn said.

If there is an accident, major or minor, a bike rider has nothing to protect him unless he is wearing a helmet. A week ago, Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger would have said that it was up to a person if he wanted to wear a helmet or not.

He's changed his tune now. Even though his accident was while riding a motorcycle, the same principles apply. Any kind of bike, you need to wear a helmet.

And that's not all.

"Wear bright clothing, because visibility is important," Munn said.

"Don't ride barefooted or with flip flops. That's dangerous. If your feet are exposed, they'll scrape the asphalt. And flip flops are an accident waiting to happen."

Munn said that it is essential for bicycles to be in good shape. If a gear isn't working right, the rider will concentrate on the problem instead of paying attention to riding.

"If brakes aren't working or chains are skipping, a rider could panic and get into line of traffic," she said. "Make sure there is plenty of air in the tires. That makes everything function better."

We've all seen kids riding in the middle of the street, oblivious to any traffic. Munn said that two cyclists riding side by side is legal, but not any more than that.

If you're riding on a city street, don't be listening to music on your headphones. What you hear may save your life.

Youngsters may be out riding around for hours. While that is great exercise, it also can be exhausting.

"They should have water with them," Munn said. "They've got to stay hydrated. If not, they get disoriented."

Used to, kids used bicycles for enjoyment, for riding to school, for visiting their friends.

With busing, not as many ride bikes to school these days, and with friends perhaps miles away, it is not as common to ride to a friend's house.

But if you're riding, know the rules of the road. Take care. Have fun. Be safe.

  • Hattiesburg American Assistant Sports Editor Alan Hinton can be reached by e-mail at