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StarBulletin.com

Bicycling by the rules


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POSTED: Saturday, February 27, 2010

Question: I've noticed that more people are riding bikes on sidewalks. I'm concerned about the safety of both pedestrians and bike riders. Can you review all laws and recommended safety practices regarding riding of bikes on sidewalks? Here are some areas of concern: Who has the right of way on sidewalks? In what areas are bikes not allowed on sidewalks? What about when bike lanes are available? Are bikers required to dismount and walk their bikes across intersections? Are bikers allowed to use cell phones while biking? What about safety equipment—helmets, lights after dark? Are there speed or age restrictions?

Answer: The city has a free bicycle regulation pamphlet available at its satellite city halls and local bike shops, while the Honolulu Police Department provides safety tips and a link to state laws on its Web site, www.honolulupd.org/traffic/bicycle.htm.

A bicycle is not considered a motor vehicle, so the city's ban on using a hand-held cell phone while driving does not apply, according to the Honolulu Police Department.

However, the ban would apply if they were operating a motorcycle, motor scooter or mo-ped, said HPD spokeswoman Michelle Yu.

In answer to your other specific questions, under 15-18 of the Revised Ordinances of Honolulu:

» Age restrictions: The only ones specified relate to operating a bicycle with a motor, in which case you have to be at least 15 years old; and to bicycle helmets, which are required for any person under 16 operating a bicycle on public property.

» Bicycle helmets: Bicyclists under 16 years of age, as well as children riding in a restraining seat or towed by a bike, are required to wear a helmet tested by a nationally recognized agency when riding along a public street.

» Right of way: Anyone riding a bicycle on a sidewalk should yield the right of way to any pedestrian and give an audible signal before overtaking and passing a pedestrian.

» Riding on sidewalks: Bicycle riding specifically is prohibited on any sidewalk in a business district (such as downtown Honolulu and Waikiki).

» Motorized bikes: Any bicycle with a motor is prohibited on any sidewalk.

» Speed: "No person shall operate a bicycle at a speed greater than is reasonable and prudent under the conditions then existing."

Under 291C-148 of the Hawaii Revised Statutes: "Unless otherwise prohibited, a bicycle may be driven at a speed of 10 miles per hour or less on a sidewalk or sidewalk area."

» Bike lanes: Bikers are supposed to ride in the same direction as vehicular traffic traveling on the same side of the road, except that they can go in either direction if there are arrows on the lane designating two-way traffic.

» Traffic control devices: Basically, bicyclists have to obey all the traffic control signals and signs applicable to vehicles.

However, when no right, left or U-turn is permitted, bikers are allowed to dismount and make the turn, at which point they must obey the regulations applicable to pedestrians.

Under the Hawaii Revised Statutes, Section 291C-141 to 291C-150:

» Riding a bike: Bicyclist has to ride on or astride "a permanent and regular seat," and a bicycle should carry only the number of people it was designed or equipped for.

» Clinging to vehicles: Anyone riding a bicycle or mo-ped is prohibited from attaching the bike or mo-ped or oneself to any other vehicle.

» Riding on roadways and bikeways: Bicyclists traveling at a speed less than the normal speed of traffic moving in the same direction should ride as near to the right-hand curb, on the edge of the roadway or on the shoulder as practicable, except when making a turn.

If riding on a one-way road with two or more marked lanes, bicyclists may ride as near to the left-hand curb, edge of the roadway or shoulder as practicable.

Bicyclists should ride in single file but are allowed to ride two abreast in bike lanes/paths that are wide enough.

» In bike lanes: Bicyclists traveling at a speed less than the normal speed of traffic moving in the same direction should ride within the bicycle lane, except when passing, turning left or when avoiding debris or other hazards.

Bicyclists should travel in the same direction as that of vehicular traffic traveling on the same side of the highway.

In a bicycle path providing for two-way bike traffic, bicycles going in opposite directions should pass each other to the right.

» Carrying articles: No bicyclist should carry anything that prevents the use of both hands in the control of the bicycle. Bicyclists are required to keep at least one hand on the handlebars.

» Lamps and other equipment: Bicycles used from 30 minutes after sunset until 30 minutes before sunrise should have a lamp on the front emitting a white light visible from at least 500 feet to the front.

Every bicycle should have a red reflector at least 4 square inches in size that is visible for 600 feet when directly in front of "lawful lower beams of head lamps on a motor vehicle" or with a lighted lamp visible from both sides from a distance of at least 500 feet. Also an approved lamp can be displayed on the left arm or left leg of the bicyclist.

Bikes also should have a brake or brakes enabling the rider to stop within 25 feet from a speed of 10 mph on dry, level, clean pavement.

Write to "Kokua Line" at Honolulu Star-Bulletin, 7 Waterfront Plaza, Suite 210, 500 Ala Moana, Honolulu 96813; call 529-4773; fax 529-4750; or e-mail .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address).