The growing number of designated bike lanes on major thoroughfares in Biloxi may have some motorists wondering the rules of the road, but Biloxi Police say the answer is an easy one:
"Motorists should think of a designated bike lane just as it were a lane for another vehicle. Those bike lanes are for bikes and give bicyclists the same rights as vehicles have in their own lane of travel," says Sgt. Brian Dykes, a traffic supervisor in the Biloxi Police Department.
Biloxi Police are reminding motorists and bicyclists about the rules because the city's Public Works Department has added nearly five miles of bike lanes in the past few months. You'll see bike lanes downtown on Main and Reynoir streets, on MLK Boulevard and Howard Avenue, and in west Biloxi on Veterans Avenue. More are in the works, where road width allows.
The lanes are for bicyclists, and are not for vehicles.
Dykes said in some instances, particularly involving southbound motorists on Reynoir Street, motorists will inappropriately use the bike lane as a righthand turn lane, to turn onto Howard Avenue.
"The law says that you cannot block or inhibit that bike lane," Dykes said. "A bike lane is not a travel lane."
Motorists also cannot merely cut across a solid white line that denotes a bike lane, just as they couldn't cross any other solid white travel line.
"A car cannot cut in front of a bike in a bike lane, just like you couldn't cut in front of another car traveling in its own lane," Dykes said. "The easy thing is to just treat a bike in a bike lane as you would a vehicle in its own lane of travel."
Bicyclists also should realize they are obligated to follow traffic rules that are normally for automobiles. For instance, bicyclists must stop at stop signs and red lights, and they should not cross lanes of traffic at mid-block.
On many downtown Biloxi streets, the bike lanes are adjacent to on-street parking spaces, which present another safety concern.
Said Dykes: "It's incumbent upon people exiting their vehicle to make sure the lane of travel next to them is clear before they exit their vehicle. The liability for injuries to the cyclist will be on the person exiting the vehicle."
Dykes also reminded motorists that state law requires vehicles in motion to remain at least three feet from a bicycle.
"The bottom line," Dykes said, "is to just show the bicyclist the same respect that you would show to another vehicle in its lane of travel."
See the state laws governing bikes and bike lanes
See a video about bike lane safety
Released by Biloxi Public Affairs Manager Vincent Creel