Pedal carefully on your bicycle warns the Payson Police Department.
Payson has nearly five times the rate of bicycle-motor vehicle crashes compared with Prescott, which is many times larger.
There have been several minor bicycle versus motor vehicle accidents recently in the Payson area and dozens more close calls.
While historical data suggests motorists are often at fault in these wrecks, officers are also seeing bicyclists failing to yield.
Payson Police Chief Don Engler said he has received multiple calls from motorists who have narrowly missed bikers as they pulled out of a driveway or onto the highway.
“I have had quite a few comments from citizens and volunteers on patrol who say bicyclists are failing to yield at stop signs,” he said. “Bikers need to review the law.”
Arizona holds bicyclists to the same laws as vehicle drivers when they are riding on the roadway or shoulder.
“With the accidents we have had, especially along Beeline, they have gone both ways,” he said.
“There’s been bicyclists that have hit vehicles that are stopped and there have also been vehicles that are starting to pull out that have collided with bicycles, so I think it is a two-way street and both need to be cognizant and aware of the other one.”
While none of the recent accidents have been serious, and it has been some years since there was a bicycle fatality in the area, Engler said it is important bicycles ride defensively.
According to a 2010 bicycle safety action plan by the Arizona Department of Transportation, Payson accounts for 3.62 percent of the 1,089 bicycle-motor vehicle crashes that occurred on state highways between 2004-2008. Payson has a high rate when compared to other communities. For instance, Prescott only had .8 percent, Sedona 2 percent and Pinetop, .54 percent. The Flagstaff area represents 20 percent of all state highway motor vehicle-bicycle crashes, according to the study data.
The most common wrecks occur when motorists fail to yield at signalized intersections (20 percent) and bicyclists fail to yield at signalized intersections (16 percent).
The most likely area a wreck occurs is when a vehicle makes a right turn at an intersection, according to state data.
And nearly all of crashes occur on streets that lack shoulders or bicycle lanes.
Payson has few bicycle lanes on narrow residential streets, making passing a bike difficult when another vehicle is coming from the opposite direction.
The Bicycle Safety Action Plan is looking at ways to add more bike lanes and other improvements and programs to lower the number of bike-vehicle accidents around the state.
The last fatal bicycle accident in Payson happened several years ago on Airport Road when a rider lost control descending the hill and went over the guardrail, Engler said.
Since then, wrecks involving bicycles have been minor.
Engler encouraged all bikers to wear helmets, outfit their bikes with safety lights and pay extra attention when riding, especially near intersections and driveways.
According to the Governor’s Office of Highway Safety, most crashes between motorists and cyclists happen at intersections and most often when the motorist fails to yield the right-of-way to the cyclist.
Tips for safe bicycle riding
Bicycles are considered vehicles, and bicyclists must obey the same rules as motorists. When riding, always obey all traffic signs, signals and lane markings.
• Signal your moves to others. Most bicycle crashes occur at driveways or other intersections. Before you enter any street or intersection, check for traffic by looking left - right - left.
• Stay alert at all times. Watch out for potholes, cracks, wet leaves, storm grates, railroad tracks or anything that could make you lose control of your bike.
• When turning left or right, always look behind you for a break in traffic, then signal before making a turn. Watch for left or right-turning traffic.
• Ride so other drivers can see you. Stay out of drivers’ blind spots.
• Ride far enough out from the curb to avoid the unexpected from parked cars (like doors opening).