During the dark and dreary days of winter, many of us long for the warmth of the sun. We dream about summertime and its abundance of pleasures, such as backyard barbecues full of good friends and delicious food, lazy days spent by the pool, endless warm nights, and copious amounts of perfectly chilled watermelon.
For some, summer is the time to dust off the old bicycle. No longer confined to the boxes we call cars, free to roam the streets on two wheels with the sun on your face and wind in your hair. No matter how glorious this may be, it comes neatly wrapped in a package of potential danger. However, bicyclist tend to be aware that vehicles dominate the road, it is the person operating the vehicle that is often unaware of laws that come along with keeping the two-wheeled pedestrians safe.
This summer is no different than any other. As you drive to work, the grocery store, friends and family homes, you will see many happy bicyclists along the way. So, let’s keep them that way, happy. Or more importantly, alive. “It’s a two-way street” most certainly applies in this situation, but keep in mind that operating a 2-ton vehicle compared to 20 pounds of aluminum is not much of a competition. The vehicle will always win that fight.
Keep these 9 rules in mind while sharing the road with bicyclist:
1. Know Bicyclists’ Rights – Often drivers have little or no idea what traffic laws apply to someone riding a bike. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) states that “cyclists 10 years and older should behave as though they were vehicles on the street, riding in the same direction as other traffic that’s going their way and following the same traffic rules”
2. Adjust Your Attitude – Stop and think about the fact that it is an actual human being on that bike before you let your impatience get the best of you. What if that person was one of your loved ones? Cyclists are not mere objects, but people, just like you
3. Consider the Benefits, for You, the Driver – When someone chooses to ride their bike, for you, that means less traffic, less congestions, and less pollution, all things that come along with driving a car
4. Be Aware When Making a Right Turn – When making a right turn be especially aware of any surrounding cyclists. Often they will be a little behind and to your right, and may be planning to ride straight ahead. Use your turn signal at all times and watch for the proper signal from the cyclists, which is the left hand raised in a squared position, or an extended right hand
5. Be Aware When Making a Left Turn – A bike can easily get to 15 – 20 mph speeds. Often when a collision happens during a left turn the driver didn’t realize that the cyclist was going that fast. Rule of thumb: when in doubt, yield
6. Three Feet Clearance – Motorists are required to give bicycles on the roadway at least 3 feet of space. More than 20 states have actually passed this law. This helps give both cyclist and motorist a concrete frame of reference. Besides giving a cyclist space, pass them slowly and smoothly. Speeding up to pass them quickly can be unnerving to the cyclist
7. Look Around (Not at Your Phone) – When it comes to bicycle injuries, the motorist almost always says “I never saw him before I hit him.” Paying attention to your surroundings is driving 101, but unfortunately we can get distracted or lose focus on what is going on around us. Always be aware of who and what is around you, never “check” your phone, and take mental notes when a cyclist is within your vicinity
8. Check Your Mirror When Exiting Your Car – Someone who is riding their bike down the street is going to stay as far out of the middle of the road as possible. This means that they are passing parked cars closely. Make sure you look before you open your car door to be sure that you don’t cause an impact between your door and the cyclist
9. Bicyclists Are Here to Stay – This goes back to the yearning for summertime. Bikes have been around for centuries and will continue to be a part of this human life. The term “it’s like riding a bike” didn’t come along for nothing. Make peace with the biking masses for everyone’s safety
Keeping the roads safe starts with you. You cannot be responsible for anyone else, only yourself, so make sure that you are doing everything you can to lessen the possibility for accidents. Whether you are the one enjoying a summer day on your bike or the motorists passing by, keep your eyes open, follow the traffic laws, and you’ll be doing your part to keep our streets a safe place to travel on.
For more driving tips, and for drivers education courses, please reach out. We’re here to help make you the best driver you can be.