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From license renewals to pedestrians in bike lanes

SO MANY QUESTIONS … And so many answers about what’s going on regarding our roads. Let’s get right to it.

HOW EARLY/LATE CAN I RENEW MY LICENSE? Gil Apodaca writes that he goes to Mexico for a few months every year around his birthday, and since he has to renew his driver’s license annually (everyone over age 79 does), it puts him in a bit of a pickle.

So how early/late can you renew?

Charlie Moore at N.M. Taxation and Revenue, which oversees the state Motor Vehicle Division, says there’s a bit of a cushion built in. “Your fellow should be in good shape with a little planning. Licenses can be renewed starting 90 days prior to expiration.”

Drivers who have gone through the Real ID process can then renew online until age 79; after that you have to go in and pass an eye exam.

Moore adds that drivers have “up to a year after expiration” to renew – but that does not apply to drivers applying for a Driver Authorization Card instead of a Real ID. Folks with an expired license who apply for a DAC, which does not require proof of lawful presence in the country (such as original/certified birth certificate, valid passport) have to go through a fingerprint process. (This has been clarified after print publication)

HOW SAFE ARE MY DOCUMENTS MVD SCANS? This is a common concern among the drivers who have turned over their original birth certificates, Social Security cards and bank statements to an MVD clerk.

First, scanning and storing those scans is required by the 2005 federal Real ID Act. Second, Moore explains, “our IT and security teams are always monitoring for threats and vulnerabilities. Any employees who handle personal information and/or credit card transactions must go through training first, and the MVD system is restricted to approved users only.”

BIKES FOLLOW CAR RULES, RIGHT? Steve emails, “I was recently driving down a two-way street with a bicycle lane on each side. As I came up within 20 to 30 feet to a bicyclist, she suddenly stuck out her arm for a left hand turn without looking to see if there was any cars coming behind her. When I hit my brakes, she slowed down, with her arm still extended, but did not turn in front of me. I went past her. The car behind me turned into the oncoming traffic lane, which was clear, and also went past the bicyclist.

“In my interpretation, I believe the bicycle lane would be treated the same as a four-lane road. If someone signals for a left-hand turn from the right side lane, they must yield to the vehicle in the left-hand lane before making the left turn. In this case, the bicyclist signaled a left turn and did yield to both vehicles. Is this the correct rule for this situation?”

Yes. Bicycles are vehicles under N.M. law.

Local attorney and cyclist Diane Albert explains, “Cyclists have same responsibilities as motorists. When changing lanes, one must yield to others especially when they are moving fast and overtaking you. That’s what I do both when driving my Subaru and bicycling. Because I want to live.

“There are no laws that specifically address this question except ‘bicyclists have same rights and responsibilities as motorists.’ Common sense! A good analogy is if you were driving a slow-moving vehicle, such as a tractor. It would be dangerous if suddenly the tractor driver decided to change lanes.

“No. 1 rule: be courteous, don’t be aggressive, and don’t change lanes willy-nilly!”

And Albert shares this link with some good bike safety tips: thegeekycyclist.com/tips/bicycle-safety-tips.

WHY ARE THEY WALKING IN MY LANE? DP says in an email, “I see more and more pedestrians walking in a bike path the wrong way, making bikers leave the bike lanes. It’s dangerous for the bikers to leave their secure lane to get (into an) auto lane to get around the pedestrians. There usually is a sidewalk for the walkers, but yet they don’t use it. What is your take on this?”

Let’s check with the city. Johnny Chandler of the Department of Municipal Development says, “Under the city of Albuquerque traffic code 8-2-7-7, it is illegal for a pedestrian to walk along or upon a roadway if a sidewalk is provided. If a sidewalk is not provided, a pedestrian walking along or upon a roadway shall, when practicable, walk only on the left side of the roadway or its shoulder facing oncoming traffic. It is also illegal to ride your horse or use of any type of draft animal on a sidewalk.”

Editorial page editor D’Val Westphal tackles commuter issues for the Metro area on Mondays. Reach her at 823-3858; dwestphal@abqjournal.com; or 7777 Jefferson NE, Albuquerque, N.M., 87109.

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