Drivers should be aware the rules governing interaction between motor vehicles and others are a little different in Galveston today.
Under an ordinance the Galveston City Council approved in January, motor-vehicle drivers must stay 3 feet from bicycles, pedestrians and people on horseback while passing.
Drivers also have to vacate the lane next to the bicycle when possible, and slow down while passing, according to the ordinance.
How slow depends on what a street’s speed limit is.
For example, a driver passing a bicycle in a 50-mph zone must slow to 30 mph; a driver passing in a 30-mph zone must slow to 20 mph, according to the ordinance.
People could face a $125 fine if they violate the rules, according to the city.
Bicyclists have to make some changes as well.
It is already a state law to keep a white light on the front of your bike after dark, and to put either a red light or red reflector on the back of the bike.
Now, people riding bikes after dark in Galveston will need a red light on the back of their bikes or face a $50 fine.
In part, the new rule is a response to the deaths of two cyclists in Galveston last year.
“The whole point of the law is to promote safety and to try to reduce accidents,” police department spokesman Capt. Joshua Schirard said. “Bicycles have a right to the roadway, but we want to make sure that they’re following the laws.”
The rule for drivers to slow down doesn’t apply on state-owned roads such as Harborside Drive or FM 3005 because the city can’t change the speed limit on those streets.
Drivers are required to give bicyclists, pedestrians and people on horseback the 3 feet of space even on state highways, however.
No rule prevents drivers from slowing down some when they pass bicyclists on a state highway, however. Giving the level of traffic, the number of bicycles and the mandate to go around, slowing down while passing on FM 3005 would be a good idea.
The Rotary Club of Galveston Island has donated some red lights for bicycles and anyone in need of a light should call the police department and ask for the special operations division.
The department’s non-emergency number is 409-765-3702.
• Michael A. Smith