Reno Pushes to Add More Bike Friendly Areas

Reno Bicycle Related Injury

Bike safety and pedestrian safety have been a focus of Nevada Traffic Safety officials for years, and the increase in traffic fatalities have caused many to call for better bike paths and safer conditions for bikers. Reno is one of the few larger cities without a bike path running through its downtown and this has been a cause of concern for many bike activists and traffic officials. The City of Reno had previously decided on a plan to create a bike path running on Virginia Street and Center Street in front of many of Reno’s famous downtown casinos. However, more than a quarter of the way through the project it was paused, after casinos began to pushback and requested that the Washoe Regional Transportation Commission (RTC) conduct another study regarding the traffic’s impact on the streets’ traffic levels.

Headaway Transportations, an engineering firm commissioned by the RTC, found that a bike path on Virginia Street would significantly increase vehicle delays and queuing. They also found that during peak travel times, northbound queuing would extend nearly two streets south and possibly beyond. Considering that many special events and high traffic events occur in downtown, it would be expected that there would be even more backups with additional bicycle traffic than during regular drive times.

Ky Plaskon, a bike activist with the Truckee Meadows Bike Alliance says that the 13-million-dollar path infrastructure project is a necessity for Reno’s downtown and feels that it would “economically boost the entire downtown, make it safer and fill a massive need. They are subsidizing the studying of street improvements to benefit one casino company while denying economic development to the Center Street businesses.” [1]

Laws to Know as A Bicyclist in Nevada

Nevada allows bikers to ride on the street and sidewalks, but sidewalks are sometimes prohibited in certain municipal areas. If on a single lane road, cars are required to move over three feet from the cyclist and on a multi-lane road, cyclists should have one full lane of space. A motorist should never pass a cyclist unless they follow the stated spacing.

Many people commonly think that bicyclists should ride on the shoulder of the roadway, however this is extremely dangerous as shoulders are not designed for bike travel. Instead, cyclists are required to travel as far right possible with the exception of three situations: staying to the right is unsafe, cyclists are traveling near or at the same speed of traffic, or when they are making a left turn.

Bicyclists must utilize the “bike lanes” when they are clearly marked, and these areas are restricted from motorist use. Motorists should only use a bike lane if they are in an accident, in an emergency, operating a disabled vehicle, or following directions of a police officer during a traffic stop. In addition to utilizing bike lanes, bikers should follow the same laws as automobiles, including signaling when changing lanes or turning, stopping completely at stop signs, waiting at red lights, and waiting at intersections.  In certain rural or smaller cities within Nevada, bikers are allowed to ride on highways but must follow posted signs that instruct them to exit. However, in Las Vegas and Reno, cyclists are prohibited from riding on the freeway. Bikers must also only carry the number of passengers for the number of seats. For example, a one seat bike can carry one person while a tandem bike with two seats can carry two people. Carrying someone on the front bar or wheel spokes of a bike is not only a safety hazard, but is also illegal in Nevada.

Lastly, Nevada law requires bikers to ride with traffic, meaning they go in the same direction as the traffic. Many bikers may feel uncomfortable having their backs turned on oncoming traffic; however, research shows that drivers react better and are more likely to accommodate bikers when they can anticipate biker movement from behind rather than in front of them.

While it is not a law in Nevada to wear a helmet, The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration strongly recommends that one is worn, and in a recent study, the NHTSA found that 9 out of 10 people killed in a bike accident were not wearing a helmet. It is also a common misconception that children are more prone to biking related deaths and injuries; in fact, the NHTSA stated that 83 percent of biking fatalities are adults over the age of 20. [2]

If a biker fails to follow the above listed rules, they can receive a citation or ticket and may be subject to the same fines and punishments as a motorist.

[1] https://www.nevadacurrent.com/blog/traffic-study-says-bike-path-in-front-of-reno-casinos-would-snarl-traffic-for-blocks/

[2] https://www.nhtsa.gov/road-safety/bicycle-safety

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