The favorable weather and the increasingly fashionable healthy lifestyle mean that there are more and more cyclists on Polish streets. However, it is not the safest means of transport, as evidenced by, for example, police statistics.
Although cyclists account for only about 1 percent. road users (in cities, with favorable weather conditions, up to about 7 percent), last year they participated in as many as 4,426 accidents, which cost the lives of 258 people.
It is worth noting that in 2019 cyclists were the perpetrators of about 1/3 of such events (1625 accidents). This year, this ratio is already around 50%! A particularly high number of accidents involving cyclists occur in built-up areas. From January 1 to April 28, 521 such events were recorded, which claimed as many as 32 fatalities. During this time, 113 accidents involving cyclists were reported outside the built-up area, which resulted in the death of 19 people.
Since no examinations are required for cycling, a serious problem is the lack of knowledge of elementary traffic rules, which is noticeable among cyclists. For this reason, the policemen of the Police Headquarters have prepared a short compendium of knowledge necessary to be able to move safely on two wheels. It will also be useful for the motorized part of society - especially those who acquired the license to drive motor vehicles many years ago.
What is worth remembering so that the road coexistence of cyclists and motorists takes place in an atmosphere of respect, safety, and mutual understanding? Let's start with the fact that the Road Traffic Law - just like in the case of cars - clearly defines the technical conditions that two-wheelers should meet. Each bicycle MUST be equipped with:
at least one front position lamp of white or selective yellow (possibly flashing),
at least one red reflex reflector not triangular in shape and at least one red position lamp to the rear,
at least one effective brake,
a bell or other warning signal with a non-piercing sound.
Cyclists also have several other responsibilities. The cyclist is obliged to:
use a cycle path or a cycle lane if it is marked in the direction in which it is moving or intends to turn,
exercise particular caution and give way to pedestrians when moving along the path for bicycles and pedestrians.
If there is no road intended specifically for cyclists or it cannot be used e.g. due to road works, then the rider should move along the roadside, and if it is not suitable for driving - along the road (as close to the right edge as possible). We should also remember that the regulations prohibit the movement of bicycles on expressways and highways.
In the case of roads designated for cyclists, they may use the footpath or footpath only if they are looking after a person aged 10 or under riding the bicycle. A cyclist can also - exceptionally - use the pavement when it runs along a road where traffic is allowed at speeds greater than 50 km / h, and the pavement itself is at least 2 meters and there is no separate path for bicycles and a lane for bicycles. The exception also applies to weather conditions that may endanger the safety of the cyclist on the road (snow, strong wind, downpour, black ice, or dense fog).
When using the sidewalk or pedestrian path, the driver is obliged to drive slowly, exercise particular care, and give way to pedestrians.
A lot of restrictions also apply to children using bicycles. It should be remembered that people under the age of 10 may ride a bike only under the supervision of an adult. A child up to 7 years of age may be transported on a bicycle, provided that it is placed on an additional seat that ensures safe riding. It is allowed to transport a child in a bicycle trailer. Only a person over 17 years of age may transport a child on a bicycle or in a bicycle trailer.
Cyclist and pedestrian crossing
When approaching a pedestrian crossing, a cyclist - like other drivers - is obliged to exercise extreme caution and give way to a pedestrian at the crossing. Like any other rider, a cyclist is prohibited from:
overtaking a vehicle at and directly in front of a pedestrian crossing, except for the crossing on which traffic is directed,
avoid a vehicle that was driving in the same direction, but stopped to give way to a pedestrian,
driving along the pedestrian crossing.
The Highway Code also prohibits cyclists from:
driving on the road next to another road user (exceptionally, driving a bicycle on the road next to another bicycle or moped is allowed, if it does not hinder the movement of other road users or otherwise does not endanger the safety of road traffic),
clinging to vehicles,
driving without keeping at least one hand on the steering wheel and feet on the pedals,
driving the bicycle under the influence of alcohol or alcohol or a substance similar to alcohol, - using a telephone while driving with a handset or microphone in hand.
At this point, it is worth adding that - just like the car driver - a cyclist caught in such an offense may be fined PLN 200!
Of course, it cannot be forgotten that the safety of cyclists also depends on other road users. First of all, car drivers should respect the right-of-way for cyclists in places prescribed by law. Examples?
When approaching the crossing for cyclists, the rider is obliged to exercise particular caution and give way to the bike on the crossing. This also applies when turning into a side road. In such a situation, the driver is also obliged to exercise extreme caution and give way to a cyclist riding straight on the road, bicycle lane, bicycle lane, or another part of the road he intends to leave. The cyclist also has priority over the vehicle when crossing the road for bicycles outside the road - then the driver of the car is obliged to give way to him.
The driver of the vehicle is prohibited from overtaking the vehicle on the crossing for cyclists and directly in front of it, except the crossing on which the traffic is directed. Moreover, when overtaking a bicycle, the rider is obliged to keep a distance of not less than 1 m.
Currently, the regulations on bicycle traffic do not require the use of protective helmets and reflective elements. However, it should be taken into account that the helmet protects the head - the part of the body most vulnerable to injury. Police also urge cyclists to use reflective vests or other reflective elements. This is especially important on roads outside built-up areas, where the difference in speed of individual road users is significant.