With help, MPO produces bike safety video

HARLINGEN — The road is meant to be shared.

A new public service announcement created by the Harlingen-San Benito Metropolitan Planning Organization is the first phase of a push to make streets safer for non-motorized traffic such as bicyclists and pedestrians.

Produced by the Harlingen Consolidated Independent School District and its Media Arts and Communications Academy, in conjunction with the Harlingen Police Department, the 30-second spot reminds both motorists and cyclists they both must abide by the rules of the road.

“We wanted to educate our cyclists and our drivers,” said J. Joel Garza Jr., director of the Harlingen-San Benito MPO.

“The first phase was to create some type of video, some type of commercial or PSA, which we can release to let the public know be careful how you ride, that you’re considered a vehicle, to stop for traffic and use the same rules of the road,” Garza said. “People don’t necessarily know that in the area.”

Accidents involving motor vehicles and bicyclists and pedestrians are too common in the Valley, and Garza said his agency is working on a map to help determine where the accidents are occurring to devise a strategy aimed at reducing their number.

“Behind the scenes, what we’ve been working on is we have now a federal mandate that requires all MPOs to adopt safety targets,” Garza said, and the Harlingen-San Benito MPO has opted to follow TxDOT guidelines on safety.

“One of those targets is to reduce the number of non-motorized accidents and fatalities, serious injuries or fatalities,” he said. “We decided this fiscal year, you know what, let’s start some safety campaign to make people aware that look, you’re not alone on the streets, there are cyclists and there are pedestrians.”

The Harlingen Police Department’s Juan Padilla is one of the actors, as is former MPO staffer Victoria Burbach. But cyclist Kay Polt takes center stage as the rider who actually demonstrates the rules of the road.

“I do want to thank the Harlingen CISD which really produced this video for us,” Garza said. “Their kids did a fantastic job. Obviously Harlingen PD also stepped up, and during shooting they provided traffic control and also one of their officers did speak and kind of laid out all of the rules and everything.”

Garza said if federal officials approve, the bike safety PSA will air on local television stations as well as during breaks at Cinemark Theaters.

A story on a bike safety video produced by the Harlingen-San Benito Metropolitan Planning Organization misidentified the actor in the video. She is Kay Polt.

Bicycling tips

• Dress appropriately for the type of riding you are planning; wear bright clothing

• Obey traffic signs and signals

• Ride with traffic, never against traffic

• Ride as far to the right, in the right lane, as practicable

• Use paved shoulders and bike lanes when available and always be on the lookout for road hazards or debris

• On narrow roads without bike lanes or shoulders, play it safe and ride single-file

• Ride no more than two abreast when traveling in a shared roadway lane; return to riding single-file if riding two abreast impedes the flow of traffic

• Use hand signals to indicate what you intend to do: left or right turns, slowing or stopping

• When riding early in the morning or at night, use a headlight, taillight and reflectors

• Make eye contact with drivers whenever possible; never assume motorists see you or that you have the right-of-way

• Never catch a ride by holding onto or attaching your bicycle to another vehicle

• Keep at least one hand on the handlebars at all times

• Do not wear headphones — they block other sounds you need to hear

• Always expect the unexpected; stay aware and remain focused on your surroundings — your safety and the safety of those around you is your first responsibility

Source: TxDOT