‘Gearing' up for the two-wheel ride back to school

Published: Aug. 16, 2012 at 2:24 PM EDT|Updated: Aug. 26, 2012 at 2:24 PM EDT
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COLUMBIA, SC (WIS) - Columbia teen Jake Roberts has been riding a bike since he was a toddler, now it's his primary form of transportation including his ride to school.

"I've ridden it everywhere," said Jake. "It's not only my team bike, but also my go around town bike."

By team, Jake means his competitive cycling group, the Forest Acres Cycling Team. But Jake says he's also been riding to and from school since the sixth grade.

"It's a fun way to get there," said Jake. "It's not just sitting in the back of a car, waiting until you get there, it gives you something to do before and after school."

But Jake knows that his fun also follows state law.

"You have to ride with traffic," he said, considering the list of state statutes. "Bikes should be recognized as vehicles, so they should treat the roads as vehicles do."

Bicycle advocates report that South Carolina has some of the most progressive bike laws in the nation. Cait Costello with the Palmetto Cycling Coalition adds if more drivers and bicyclists understood state law, South Carolina may not report the second highest amount of bicycle-related fatalities in the U.S.

Some of the most common misconceptions? "Driver's don't seem to know that bicyclists can ride two abreast on the road , no more than two abreast, but it is in the law," said Costello. "Bicyclists don't always understand that they do have to stop at red lights and at stop signs, she added. "We have to observe all the rules and signals of the road."

Bicyclists must also have lights on their bike when it's dark. Jake says he likes to use them all the time.  "Especially in the mornings when it's going to be darker," adds Jake. "I have to make sure they see me and recognize me as a rider."

All of the precautions and required laws are reinforced by Jake's parents. Jake's dad is also a cyclist and says any parent considering whether or not to let their child bike to school, should also consider three things.

"Number one, I would say make sure the bike is in good working order," said Kevin Roberts. "You wouldn't send your kid off to school in an automobile that's not safe, and you shouldn't do it with the bike. [Also], the helmet is not debatable, that's number two. Then number three would be to plan out a route with your child. Get in your car and go from your house to your school and figure out your route. Plan out the route during the times that they'll be riding.

Jake's dad says during that planning you may find that it's not practical for your child to ride to school. But if it is, he says the more students that do, the greater the understanding will be for everyone.

"I think if more kids were on road riding, we as a society would recognize that the automobile is not the only means of transportation. We can get around in other means – we just have to do it," said Roberts.

Advocates say the age of your child should be considered in your decision making. If they're younger, officials say consider riding with them to educate them on laws of the road at a young age.

Earlier this year, the Palmetto Cycling Coalition, in partnership with the S.C. Department of Public Safety and Bike Law, kicked off their Safe Streets Save Lives Campaign to bring awareness to bike laws in the state. For more information visit www.safestreetssavelives.org.

For a list of state bike laws, the City of Columbia has listed them on their website at http://www.columbiasc.net/bikefriendly/374.

Copyright 2012 WIS. All rights reserved.