Two deaths in Galveston last summer involving bicycle riders and automobile drivers prompted community discussion about whether streets can be made safer for cyclists.
Last week, the city council approved an ordinance requiring drivers to keep 3 feet between their autos and cyclists, pedestrians or people on horseback. The rule goes into effect May 1.
The council should be commended for taking that step.
While we agreed in earlier editorials with critics of the ordinance who argued it would be hard to enforce, we still supported it.
As we wrote in an editorial last November, all laws requiring people to use turn signals, seat belts and child-safety seats and to refrain from texting while passing through a school zone, also are extremely difficult to enforce. It would be amazing to learn that anywhere near 1 percent of any such infractions resulted in citations, but those laws still provide a societal benefit.
As much as anything else, laws are clear statements from society about what’s acceptable and expected behavior, and what’s not.
The critics also said that education efforts — for drivers, cyclists, pedestrians and others — would do more than the ordinance.
Yes, cyclists can make themselves safer on the road.
Included in the Galveston ordinance was a requirement that bicyclists riding at night equip their bikes with white lamps on the front and red lamps on the back. Texas law already requires bicyclists to use headlights and rear reflectors while they’re riding at night, but the rule often is ignored.
To that end, after the two deaths, some Galveston business owners and apartment buildings passed out helmets and headlights to employees and tenants who frequently use bicycles.
The number of cyclists spikes in the summer, when many restaurants use foreign students working their summer vacation in Galveston during the main tourist season, which obviously has more automobiles on its streets. The owners and apartments are part of an education effort.
The city deserves credit for also including bike lanes in its road improvement plans, but better signage along the roadway to let drivers know where there is a possibility of encountering cyclists would help.
Certainly, there is more to be done to make the roads safer.
The ordinance is a step in letting both drivers and cyclists know what is expected of them to make roads safer.
• Dave Mathews