2017-07-27 / Opinion


Rules of the Road Apply to All

With the launch of a fresh “Newport Waves” safety campaign this week, we are reminded that the responsibility of safety on our streets is a shared one. That includes residents and tourists who are motorists, pedestrians, bicyclists, public safety officials, runners, walkers, skateboarder’s, ride-share drivers and tour bus drivers.

When you think about it, American drivers are a sophisticated lot. There are myriad rules, some obvious, some not, that we are able to follow. We know to travel on the right-hand side of a road, when to stop, or at least pause at the red octagon signs dotting street corners, to slow down when traffic lights are yellow, and to stop when they’re red. We also know that driving a vehicle the wrong way down a one-way road is wrong. All of these “rules of the road” are enforced, and when there are infractions, people are not surprised by the penalties.

But, we want to remind motorists that not all the roadways were built for them; many in Newport were made to accommodate horse-drawn buggies. Our city is often congested during peak tourism months and it is important to remember to be alert and courteous to those sharing the road.

Unfortunately, many (adult) two-wheel drivers don’t take their place on the roads as seriously. Many seem to think that riding a bicycle or skateboard down a one-way street against traffic is OK. It isn’t. Riding a bike or a skateboard on a sidewalk in any direction is also wrong. We are curious as to why these offenders of the most basic tenants of safety, common sense and courtesy think such behavior is acceptable. It’s not. It is unsafe, it causes distractions for drivers and pedestrians and it deserves stricter enforcement.

At a recent monthly neighborhood association meeting of nearly three dozen residents, there was actually a plea made to the group’s Community Police Officer Meri Scott to ticket more bicyclists and skateboarders for failure to follow the rules of the road.

But tickets and citations are not the only line of defense; people need to be educated and reminded of the protocol. We are fortunate that Newport Waves has relaunched an education program for all the motorists, cyclists and pedestrians on the road and sidewalks.

We know walking and running are good for you mentally and physically. It is enjoyable to be outside soaking in the warm weather, while listening to music or an audio book. However, we suggest that it is safer for everyone if runners and walkers use sidewalks where available and walk or run against traffic, so that you see motorists and they see you. If your back is to the traffic and your headphones are on, the likelihood of hearing a vehicle or cyclist behind you is dramatically reduced.

Aquidneck Island is a great area for competitive cyclists, many of whom have keen situational awareness. Unfortunately, there are many others that don’t. Rolling through stops signs or a red light and not yielding to folks in crosswalks doesn’t reflect well on cyclists. Additionally, many drivers are already distracted, so assuming they know what you are going to do is a risky leap of faith. We ask that you be aware that others are not aware, and ride accordingly.

Tour buses are an ideal way for visitors to see Ocean Drive and the mansions along Bellevue Avenue, but we think some courtesy should be extended to others on the road. Giving a narrated tour on Ocean Drive on a beautiful day traveling five mph is not fair and causes safety concerns. Cars caught behind buses don’t know whether to pass, cyclists are not sure if they should pass on the right or left, and stopping a bus in the apex of a 45-degree corner is just illogical. There are plenty of areas to pull the bus over with lights flashing, and give our visitors information.

Lastly, here’s a small point that everyone might agree on: the return of the three-wheeled scooters is the telltale sign that the season is upon us. Can we give the drivers a remedial course in when to use a horn? There is no need to announce to the world you are on vacation, and the incessant horns honking is, frankly, just annoying.


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