Throughout the month of May, Americans are celebrating cyclists with National Bike Month. According to the League of American Bicyclists, “from 2000 to 2013, the number of bicycle commuters in the U.S. grew by more than 62 percent.” Seeing as bicycle transportation has become more common, hopefully we can stay aware and be considerate of bikers all year in order to keep our roads both active and safe.
Drivers may find it confusing or challenging to share the road, however, so here are some tips on how to effectively and safely share the highways with bicycle riders.
1. Use cautious turning
Cyclists ride on the right side of the road, so you may hit an unsuspecting rider with a quick turn. Check your mirrors and be aware of blind spots before turning. While at a stop sign or red light, make a complete stop in order to let bikers pass, and check for unseen riders.
2. Pass slowly and with caution
Allow ample room for your car to safely pass and travel ahead of cyclists. Furthermore, take caution to pass at slower speeds. In the case that you do accidentally hit or swipe a cyclist, the speed of impact can dramatically affect the amount of injury caused.
3. Stay out of bike lanes
When driving, pulling over or parking (even if it’s “just for a minute”), make sure to steer clear of the bike lanes. These lanes are designated sections of the road for those on bicycles to ride safely and freely. Maneuvering out of the bike lane and into the lane of traffic in order to avoid your car can be a tricky and dangerous move for riders.
4. Give them space
Some state laws require drivers to leave at least three feet of space between their car and any cyclists ahead. Leave enough room between your car and bicycle riders ahead of you.
Give bikers the right of way. Allowing them to go first is always a safer option so they can have an open, safe path to travel along. Make eye contact with cyclists at intersections to acknowledge their presence and signal to let them know they are free to pass.
6. Don’t assume
Not all riders are proficient: they may swerve, brake suddenly, or even fall. There can be a lot of obstacles on the side of the road such as debris or potholes that even experienced bicyclists may have a hard time avoiding. So don’t assume they will always stay in a straight path along the side of the road − be aware of their movements.
7. Watch out for children
Children riding bicycles are smaller and harder to spot on the road, especially for drivers of bigger cars. Be careful and considerate at crossways and intersections. Kids are less aware of their surroundings and when it is safe to cross. Allow them the right of way, and wait for them to safely cross.
8. Don’t “door” them
Some cyclist slang for you: being “doored” is when the occupant of a parked car swiftly opens their car door on an unsuspecting cyclist who is hit by it or runs into it. Check if the surrounding area is clear before opening your door.
Tips for cyclists, too
For those of you getting on two wheels to celebrate National Bike Month, here are some tips on how to share the road with others.
- Observe traffic regulations – Cyclists are not immune to traffic violations. Pay attention to red lights and practice arm signaling.
- Stay to the right – Street cyclists are required to stay to the right side of the road. Avoid swerving and make sure to check if the lane is clear before moving farther into traffic lanes. If traveling in a group, it is best to travel in a single line so cars have enough room to safely get around you while passing.
- Wear a helmet – Traveling on the road puts riders at a higher risk of harm in the event of an accident, so it is just as necessary for a cyclist to wear a helmet as for a driver to wear a seatbelt. Also wear bright-colored or reflective clothing to make yourself visible to drivers at all times of the day.
I hope everyone has a safe and enjoyable time on the roads!