by Mark Wyatt, Iowa Bicycle Coalition
Veteran RAGBRAI riders understand the roads used by RAGBRAI are not closed to other vehicles. You will occasionally see bikes, cars, and even large trucks on the route in either direction of travel. New riders think they have both sides of the road for their use and that simply is untrue. You have to follow the rules of the road on RAGBRAI for your own safety.
The Code of Iowa states bicyclists have the same rights and duties of the operators of vehicles. This means you can use the roadways, but you must follow the traffic rules. Just because you are on RAGBRAI doesn’t mean the rules are suspended. These are public roads that are open to trucks and cars. Attention to the traffic laws could save your life.
The Iowa State Patrol and local law enforcement are present at many intersections along the RAGBRAI route. If a law enforcement officer is at an intersection they may direct traffic and supercede the traffic sign or signal. If an intersection is being directed by a law enforcement officer, you should follow the signals of the officer.
It is not unusual to have uncontrolled intersections along the route, especially on the right turns and lower traffic roads. If no officer is present, follow the traffic control sign or signal as you would in your car or on your bike during any other week of the year.
Some of the main rules to follow are:
- stopping completely at stop signs
- obeying yield signs
- not crossing yellow lines in your lane
- riding to the right
- signaling for turns
- not cutting corners
- riding in a respectable manner
One of the biggest problems is when the RAGBRAI route enters a town. The bicycle traffic becomes congested and people are trying to go every direction. Be careful, slow down, and follow the traffic rules to be safe.
This is especially true in the overnight towns. Remember that many of the riders are not from Iowa. They are trying to navigate a new town and locate their campgrounds or other services. Combine the bicycle traffic with support vehicles and spectators and things can quickly become chaotic. Simply follow the traffic rules and everybody will reach their destinations safely.
If you are going to ride RAGBRAI safely, you are going to keep in mind the following safety tips:
- The RIGHT stuff.
- The RIGHT gear.
- The RIGHT communications.
- The RIGHT riding.
- The legal RIGHT.
- The RIGHT frame of mind.
- The RIGHT abilities
- The RIGHT attitude
- The RIGHT attention.
- The RIGHT condition
Mark Wyatt is the statewide RIDE RIGHT chair and the executive director of the Iowa Bicycle Coalition, a statewide advocacy organization for bicycling. Mark is also a League Cycling Instructor (LCI), board member for the Alliance for Bicycling and Walking. More information about the Iowa Bicycle Coalition can be found at www.iowabicyclecoalition.org.