23 Jul How to Share the Road with Cyclists
During the height of summer and its accompanying good weather, drivers can expect to encounter more bicyclists. Extra caution should be exercised while sharing the road with these two-wheeled vehicles.
Like cats and dogs, drivers and cyclists are notorious for having an antagonistic relationship. For cyclists, cars are noisy, dangerous road obstructions. For motorists, cyclists behave unpredictably, ignore basic traffic laws and courtesies on the road, and are a nuisance.
Despite this, cyclists and drivers need to work together to safely share the road. According to the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration (NHTSA), 818 cyclists died as a result of motor vehicle crashes in 2015. From 2006 to 2015, cyclist fatalities constituted about 2% of all traffic fatalities each year.
On the road, motorists have a responsibility to help ensure the safety of cyclists. A car is larger, faster, and can cause more damage to its surroundings than a bicycle. Bicycles have the same legal right to travel on the road as cars, so drivers can help prevent hundreds of road deaths per year by learning to safely share the road with cyclists.
How to Navigate Around Cyclists
Having to share the road with a cyclist can be a knuckle-whitening experience for even the best driver. Not only can cars seriously harm cyclists, bike riders may also swerve unpredictably or be inattentive of their surroundings. Cyclists might also forgo wearing a helmet, further increasing the potential for an injury in a crash.
Regardless of what a cyclist does on the road, here are a few basic safety tips from Bob Mionske, two-time Olympic cyclist and a lawyer specializing in bicycle laws, any driver can follow to make the road safer for driver and cyclist alike:
- Keep an eye out for approaching cyclists. Cyclists can appear on the road suddenly, whether over a hill or from around a corner. Don’t assume a road is clear from oncoming bicycles.
- Give space to bicycles. Allow at least 3 feet or more between your vehicle and a cyclist. This gives cyclists ample room in case the cyclist unexpectedly swerves or falls. Also, driving too closely to a bike can be seen as aggressive and result in an unnecessary altercation.
- Never tailgate a cyclist. Treat a cyclist like any other vehicle. Tailgating a cyclist will not make him or her pedal faster, and only increases the risk of getting into a crash.
- Use your turn signal. Signaling your intentions is especially important for a cyclist. Knowing where your vehicle is headed can prevent a cyclist from accidentally cutting you off, or swerving into your vehicle’s path.
- Avoid honking your horn. Because cyclists have to balance on their bikes, a startling noise could cause them to fall and be hit by an oncoming car.
- Check your blind spot before turning right. When you’re sharing the road with a bicycle, it’s likely that the cyclist will be riding on your right. Before making a right turn, check your blind spot for oncoming cyclists, so you don’t suddenly cut them off and cause a crash.
Watching Out for Bikes While Parking
One scenario drivers may not consider is that cars can be dangerous for cyclists even when they aren’t in motion. When parallel parked against a sidewalk, drivers should always check for oncoming cyclists to avoid either hitting them with the car door, or causing them to crash into an open door. Bicycling.com recommends that drivers get in the habit of opening the driver-side door with their right hand, so they’re forced to look over their shoulder and check for bikes.
Drivers pulling out of a driveway should also be alert for cyclists, either to avoid getting into a collision, or forcing the rider to swerve into traffic to avoid your vehicle.
By following just a few simple tips on sharing the road with cyclists, every driver can help make the road safer, less hostile, and more enjoyable for drivers and cyclists alike.