Recent letters to the editor raised questions about use of the Vineyard’s bike paths. The Island’s nearly 40 miles of bike paths are technically shared use paths designed for recreational use by pedestrians and bicyclists. The combination requires path users to exercise caution and practice some common rules of etiquette.

What follows are some reminders about the rules of the road.

For pedestrians:

• On sidewalks, be mindful of other users. Stay to one side of the sidewalk when possible, especially when pausing. Use crosswalks in town centers.

• On bike paths, keep in mind other users such as bicyclists, skate boarders, and rollerbladers that travel faster and will have to pass you. Stay to the right side of the path unless passing others. Look behind before moving across the width of the path. If you must stop on a congested path, try to step off the path to prevent additional back up.

• If walking along a roadway, always walk against traffic. Be prepared to jump aside. Be aware that not all roads have shoulders. If walking at night, have a flashlight or use a smart phone as a light to alert drivers of your presence.

For bicyclists:

• When riding on a road, bicyclists are legally required to follow the same traffic laws as if in a car. Always ride with traffic. It is against the law to ride the wrong way on a one-way street. Generally, you should ride on the right side of the travel lane to the left side of the white fog line. Some cyclists may prefer to ride to the right side of the fog line when enough pavement is available. Paved shoulders are highly variable in width and can include sand, debris and drain gates that may result in suddenly needing to merge back into the travel lane. It is best to keep a steady track rather than weaving from one side of the fog line to the other. Riding in a predictable manner improves safety.

• Sharing the road means not unnecessarily holding up motor traffic. While it is legal to ride two abreast, do so only when it does not prevent motorists from passing due to traffic volumes or curvy or hilly roads. Ride single file when in groups and spread out. Many Island roads present limited opportunities to pass even one or two cyclists. Consider pulling off the road and pausing if there are vehicles behind you.

• Bike paths are essentially wide sidewalks which pedestrians also use. Pay attention and behave as if you were on the roadway: stay to the right, pass on the left, slow down to adjust for congestion. Pedestrians have the right of way; give them an audible warning when passing. Be alert for motor vehicles crossing the path from side roads and driveways. Stop only when you can pull off the path. Many cyclists find the paths too congested and choose to stay on the roadway.

• Riding on sidewalks is permissible, except in downtown areas and where posted otherwise. Yield to pedestrians and walk your bicycle when conditions dictate.

• Protect yourself. Although Massachusetts law requires riders 16 and under to wear a helmet, all riders should. Proper lights and reflectors are the law when riding after dark. Bicycling with headphones or ear buds is strongly discouraged.

For motorists:

• Be on the lookout for pedestrians. Even in town centers, not all streets have sidewalks, and many roads in rural areas do not have sufficient shoulders for people to step off the pavement when vehicles approach. Slow down.

• Bicyclists on the road are legal and are part of traffic, even when there is a bike path next to the road. Bikes are slower moving vehicles; you may have to wait behind before passing.

• Look both ways when crossing a bike path. When exiting a driveway or turning off a main road, remember cyclists and pedestrians have the right of way.

• When passing cyclists on the roadway, do so cautiously and courteously. Pass only when certain there are no oncoming vehicles. State law requires at least three feet between you and a cyclist when passing, but allow more if traveling faster. Avoid honking your horn, which can jolt cyclists and cause them to lose control.

• Remember bicycling is beneficial. An adult on a bike may represent one less car on the road and hunting for a parking space. Bicycling is also healthier, less expensive, and more environmentally friendly than driving.

For more information on bike safety, biking to work or school, or bicycle laws, visit Vineyard bike shops can also provide information, as well as helmets, lights and other gear.

Simon Shapiro

Oak Bluffs

The writer is chairman of the Vineyard bicycle and pedestrian advisory committee, a subcommittee of the Martha’s Vineyard Joint Transportation Committee.