As spring draws near, people eagerly await the opportunity to get outside and enjoy the warmer weather. Walking, jogging and biking have long been popular outdoor activities. Here in the Northeast that means more people sharing already-crowded roadways. Ignoring the rules of the road could have tragic outcomes.
On March 2, 2011, Alison Miller, 33, was taken to Morristown Memorial Hospital via airlift after being struck by a car on Route 57 in Hackettstown. It was reported that Ms. Miller was riding her bike in an eastern direction on the westbound shoulder of the roadway when she was hit by a car driven by Karl Weber, 73, as he attempted to make a right-hand turn. No summonses were immediately issued at the scene and, fortunately, Ms. Miller was released from the hospital soon after being treated. (1)
Not all bicycle accidents have such fortunate endings and cyclists have more to worry about than just automobiles. Last month New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg signed a law that would require the collection of data on bicycle crashes within the city and on fatalities and injuries related to those crashes. This legislation was supported by Westfield, N.J. resident Nancy Gruskin, widow of Stuart Gruskin. Mr. Gruskin died in May 2009, three days after being struck by a bicycle deliveryman traveling the wrong way on a one-way Manhattan street. While this law focuses on greater safety for pedestrians in New York, Mrs. Gruskin points out that many residents of New Jersey commute to the city each day and, consequently, are affected by this new law. (2)
In New Jersey bicycles are treated like other motor vehicles with riders having the same rights and responsibilities. Those responsibilities include abiding by all traffic laws, including obeying traffic signals, keeping to the right, and riding with traffic – not against it. Bicyclists are also responsible for the mechanical upkeep of their bikes as motorists are for their vehicles. (3) Failure to heed the laws of the road could lead to accidents in which the bicyclists may find themselves culpable.