It’s that time of year again. The sun is shining and the birds are chirping and it’s National Bike Month, which means it’s time for you to share the road with cyclists. Bicyclists have rights on the roadways, just like regular drivers do. In this article, we’ll be breaking down some of the ways in which to share the road safely with bicyclists, and common bicycle accident causes & how to avoid them.
Tips for safely sharing the road with bicyclists
Let’s start with the basics. A common question is whether or not bicyclists should ride on sidewalks or on the road, and the answer is complicated. In some cities like New York City and San Francisco, bicyclists are banned from riding on the sidewalk. In other cities like Boston and Washington, D.C., cyclists are still allowed to utilize sidewalks.
However, that doesn’t mean cyclists must use them. In some cases, using sidewalks causes cyclists to become harder to see to drivers who aren’t expecting them at driveways or crosswalks.
Therefore, many cyclists feel the safest on roads. Here are a few of the most common safety tips when sharing the road with cyclists:
- Cyclists ride in the same direction as traffic, so before you make a quick right turn, be cautious and check your mirrors and blind spots to make sure there isn’t a cyclist riding close to you.
- It’s typically common courtesy to leave at least 3 feet of space between your vehicle and a cyclist. Especially when attempting to pass a cyclist, leave plenty of space to safely get around them and if possible, pass at a slower speed.
- Bike lanes are made specifically for bicyclists. Don’t drive, park, or pull your car over into a bike lane. It can become dangerous for a cyclist to move into regular traffic to avoid a vehicle in the bike lane.
- Make sure to notice any bicycle road signs, whether they are alerting you of a bike lane, telling you to watch for bicycles, or informing you of a bicycle crossing. They are there to help both drivers and cyclists.
- Be especially aware of children on bicycles. They are smaller, harder to see, and may not be as comfortable riding in bike lanes.
- Don’t drive distracted. Everyone knows not to text & drive, to keep their eyes on the road, and this is another reason why. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, 857 cyclists were killed in bicycle accidents with vehicles in 2018. We don’t want anyone to be another statistic.
Common vehicle-bicycle accidents and how to avoid them
There is a plethora of ways that an accident can occur. Here, we’re looking at a few of the more common ones and letting you know what can be done to prevent them.
- Failure to Yield by the Vehicle – Take the time to look in all directions before continuing through a stop sign or light. If going straight, make sure a cyclist is not crossing in front of you. If turning left, yield to any bicyclists who may be riding in the opposite direction. If turning right, check that there are no cyclists coming beside you who may not stop at the stop sign.
- Wrong-Way Driving – You may think that going down a short one-way street or alley to quicken your trip may not be a big deal. However, when a cyclist is not expecting you to come from that direction, you are putting yourself in a bad situation.
- “Dooring” – We’ve all seen it: someone in a parked car opens their door in front of an oncoming bike and WHAM! Down goes the cyclist. This may be the most easily avoidable situation. Simply look at your surroundings before opening your door.
- Passing a Cyclist – Each state is different in its laws regarding this. To read more about the laws some states have enacted, you can read this write-up from the National Conference of State Legislatures. The same organization also released this map, which shows the distance each state legally requires a vehicle to maintain when passing a cyclist.
The bottom line.
Both drivers and cyclists need to do their part when it comes to safely share the roadways with each other. In addition to regular roadway laws for vehicles, there are also rules for bicycles on the road.
If you follow the laws and use caution, everyone can enjoy the road ahead together. You never know when an accident will happen and it’s good to know you’re covered. If you have a question about your SafeAuto policy, or maybe want to know what SafeAuto can offer you, give us a call at 1-800-SAFEAUTO or visit our website.