Bicycling is one of the most popular activities in the U.S., with millions of Americans pedaling to their destinations instead of taking a motorized vehicle. People bike for many reasons – commuting to work, running errands, exercise and recreation, to name a few – and most of that activity takes place on public roadways.
Unfortunately, hundreds of bicyclists are killed every year in auto collisions and other motorized vehicles. While some fatalities are the fault of the cyclist, most occur because the drivers of motor vehicles aren’t paying attention or they ignore the rights of cyclists. As the driver of a motorized vehicle, you can help make the streets safer for bicyclists by adhering to the following “rules of the road.”
Accept that cycling on the road is here to stay.
While many motorists view cyclists as an annoyance and a safety hazard, they are entitled to ride on public roads, and their numbers are growing. Many people bike to work every day to avoid sitting in traffic and to reduce greenhouse gasses from car exhaust. As concern for the environment continues to grow throughout the U.S., so will the number of cyclists on the roads.
Respect the rights of bicyclists.
When it comes to riding bicycles on the road, every state in the U.S. has some version of the following as part of its traffic laws: “Bicycle riders on public roads have the same rights and responsibilities as motorists, and are subject to the same rules and regulations.” To review the laws pertaining to bicycling in your state, visit this site.
Put yourself in the biker’s position.
Today’s bikes weigh an average of about 20 lbs. and offer no protection in a collision. Cars and light trucks typically weigh one or two tons, if not more, and have many safety features built into them.
Consider benefits to auto drivers.
Every cyclist means one less car on the road, which reduces traffic congestion. Bikes don’t wear down the asphalt. They don’t pollute the air. And, they don’t contribute to potholes.
Practice “bike safety” driving.
- Stay alert for the presence of cyclists, especially at night
- Give cyclists at least three feet of clearance (many states require this)
- Don’t accelerate when passing cyclists; slow and steady is the correct approach
- Always check your mirrors and blind spots for the presence of cyclists
- Signal your intentions before changing lanes or making a turn
- Don’t honk your horn at cyclists unless it is necessary to avoid a collision
5 Leading Causes of Car/Bike Collisions
Collisions between bicycles and motorists can happen for any number of reasons. The most frequent include:
- Most collisions between cars and cyclists occur at a junction in the road, when the driver of the vehicle doesn’t see the cyclist while pulling out of or turning into a driveway, entrance to a parking lot or some other junction.
- Sudden Obstruction. In most cases, this type of collision occurs when a driver opens their door so suddenly that the cyclist has no time to react. It can also happen when an unseen biker suddenly pulls in front of a moving vehicle.
- Overtake Turn. These collisions generally occur when motorists pass a cyclist or group of cyclists while going too fast or not leaving enough space between the vehicle and the rider(s).
- Traffic Light Stop. Traffic lights can cause collisions in many different ways. A cyclist stopping next to a vehicle may end up in the driver’s blind spot. Large trucks can hide the presence of a cyclist from other motorists. Cyclists may try to pull out ahead of traffic when the light turns green.
- Rear End. Cyclists fear this type of collision more than any other because they usually have no way of seeing or anticipating the collision, which can happen while the cyclist is moving or stopped.
Both bikers and motorists have a responsibility to ride/drive safely to avoid fatal collisions. For bikers, it means adhering to their rules of the road. For motorists, it means respecting the rights of cyclists and staying alert at all times (put your phone away when you’re in the car!). Look before exiting your car, especially when parking on the street. Be extra vigilant at intersections and stop lights. Practice patience and consideration when bicyclists seem to be in your way. Working together, we can all reduce the tragic loss of life that occurs far too often on our streets and roads.