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Saturday, March 10, 2012

Why Must Pedestrians Walk Facing Traffic? Why Must Bicycles Ride With Traffic?

“I know pedestrians are supposed to walk facing oncoming traffic, but I want to know why. And why are bicycles supposed to go with traffic?” Spring will be coming soon and like our patron, the Newton Falls Public Library staff is aware that more people will be outdoors walking and riding their bicycles. Understanding the reasoning behind these situations might help encourage people to comply.

In both cases, it is Ohio law.  Ohio Revised Code (ORC) 4511.50C Pedestrian walking in roadway: Where neither a sidewalk nor a shoulder is available, any pedestrian walking along and upon a highway shall walk as near as practicable to an outside edge of the roadway, and, if on a two-way roadway, shall walk only on the left side of the roadway.” ORC 4511.55.  Operating bicycles and motorcycles on roadway: “Every person operating a bicycle upon a roadway shall ride as near to the right side of the roadway as practicable obeying all traffic rules applicable to vehicles and exercising due care when passing a standing vehicle or one proceeding in the same direction.”

Our patron was still interested in discovering the reasoning behind the laws. On page 85 of Bicycling Touringand Mountain Bike Basics by Peter Oliver, the author explains why a cyclist should move with traffic. “The speed differential of a car going 40 mph overtaking a cyclist going 15 is 25 mph; the differential of car and cyclist converging at those speeds is 55 mph. The potential of impact is more than doubled, while the reaction time for both rider and driver is dramatically reduced.”

IdahoWalk Smart – Walk Safe, Walk Smart, Walk Often produced by Idaho Transportation Department states when pedestrians walk facing oncoming traffic they are less likely to be surprised by an oncoming vehicle [p.3]. Traffic laws for pedestrians and drivers to know from the Florida Department of Transportation states “A driver and a pedestrian who face each other are generally more aware of each other and crash risk is therefore reduced for pedestrians who travel on the left.”

One of our staff members fondly remembered a Camp Fire Girls’ mnemonic for safe walking: “Single file . . . facing traffic all the while.” Having a clearer understanding of what is behind these laws; our patron felt she would be better able to encourage others to obey them.

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