As president of the Lancaster Bicycle Cub, Dave Stauffer thinks most people in Lancaster County are friendly to bicyclists.
“People are used to buggies and scooters in rural areas. When they see a cyclist, it’s not something that’s a shock to them,” he said.
Still, as president of the countywide bike club, Stauffer said safety is a priority for their around 150 active members.
More than 300 crashes involving bicycles were reported in Lancaster County from 2013 to 2017. Nearly all of those crashes — 302 of 307 — resulted in injury, with four being fatal.
While it’s easy to assume the need for safety lies with drivers, bicyclists can be at fault, too.
In three of the four crashes involving bicycles in East Lampeter Township police’s jurisdiction last year, the bicyclist was at fault, according to Lt. Matthew Hess. The department covers East Lampeter and Upper Leacock townships.
The county planning commission’s latest transportation plan outlines goals to make Lancaster County a more bikeable — and safer — place.
The plan, released April 1, came at the time of year when recreational bicyclists might find it warm enough to get their wheels out again.
Here are some guidelines for bicyclists and motorists.
• Obey traffic laws.
“Understand that you are a vehicle just like cars, but with respect that they’re much bigger,” Stauffer said. Bicyclists need to obey all traffic laws, Hess said. He also noted the importance of using proper hand turn signals.
• Helmets, on, kids.
According to Pennsylvania Law, children under age 12 must wear a helmet while riding a bike. Hess said to make sure kids have their snaps connected and adjusted for a snug fit.
• That goes for adults, too.
Stauffer said if someone showed up for a Lancaster Bicycle Club ride without a helmet, he would not let them ride. It’s part of the policies listed on its website. Same thing goes for earbuds.
• Use lights, even with the sun.
Lights on a bike at night makes sense, but Stauffer said the bicycle club promotes lights during the day, too.
• Wear white, bright-colored or reflective clothing gear for visibility, Hess said.
• Consider bike commuting.
Swapping out a motorized commute for a pedaling one can cut commuting costs and lead to better health, according to Tim Beckwith of nonprofit Commuter Services of Pennsylvania. Even opting to bike a few times a week can make a difference.
• Four feet of space, or more.
Even 4 feet of passing room as required by Pennsylvania law can be intimidating to cyclists, Stauffer said. Moderate speed as you pass, and give more than 4 feet if possible. Vehicles can cross a double-yellow line to pass a cyclist, Stauffer said.
• Be mindful of all lanes.
Stauffer said one of the most dangerous things for Lancaster County cyclists can be a vehicle going the opposite direction moving out of their lane to pass another bike, a buggy or scooter. “It gets pretty close at times,” he said.
• By law, bicyclists don’t have to ride in the shoulder, although they typically do.
“A cyclist may not be on the edge. And there are reasons for that, not just because they want to be obnoxious,” Stauffer said.
Reasons could include getting around manure, glass or debris in the road, he said.
• “Scan the roadway,” said Hess.
Scanning straight ahead can create tunnel vision. “By scanning the roadway and moving your eyes you can increase your awareness to hazards ahead or on the side of the roadway.”