Aug. 23, 2011
Lynn Monty, Free Press Staff Writer
Cyclist Jake Goss of Burlington glided toward the intersection of Pearl Street and North Winooski Avenue to a complete stop, just shy of the thick white crosswalk. The red light was long enough for Burlington Police Officer Mike Henry to offer him some friendly educational information about the rights and responsibilities of cyclists.
Goss thanked the officer as the light turned green.
Six police officers were on hand talking to bicyclists and pedestrians alike at the Intersection Action for Biker Safety event held in coordination with Local Motion, midday Monday.
Local Motion Education and Safety Manager Jason Van Driesche said this is the second year this kind of community outreach has been offered. “We are out here thanking people who are riding by the rules of the road and providing reminders for those who are not,” he said.
Reflective light bands with the slogan, “Give respect, get respect. Safety is a two-way street” were handed out to bikers along with a list of state and city ordinances.
“In order for bikers to be taken seriously, they have to take their role on the street seriously,” Van Driesche said. “A lot of people who ride bikes, ride by the rules but are frustrated with the bikers who act like the streets are their own private playground. What we are trying to do is reinforce that majority and reign in that minority of folks.”
Van Driesche said with gas prices still high, there are more cyclists on the road than in previous years. “We want biking to become mainstream,” he said. “It’s a long, slow process, but we are seeing a lot more conversation about the importance of bike riders riding by the rules if they want respect while they are out on the road.”
Burlington police Sgt. Jason Lawson is the supervisor of the Safe Streets Program at the police department where about 50 percent of officers were trained on ordinances regarding the rights of cyclists.
The most common violations involve pedestrians and cyclists. The second most common violation is failure to illuminate bikes at night. Cyclists can be fined between $50 and $500 for such violations.
Cyclists on the road are considered a vehicle by state statute, and are subject to all of the penalties and fines that a motor vehicle would be subject to, Lawson said.
“Pedestrians have the right of way, especially at pre-designation traffic intersections like we have here,” he said pointing to the four-way traffic intersection at Pearl Street and North Winooski Avenue. “Jaywalking is illegal in Burlington, and pedestrians are required and encouraged to use the crosswalks.”
Lawson said the officers were not looking for people who were violating the rules of the road at the event, but were recognizing those who were doing their part to abide by the laws and protecting the safety of the community.
“This initiative today is to educate bikers and pedestrians. This is phase one, education. Phase two is enforcement,” Lawson said.