Motorists, Please Share the Road
In these safety articles we invariably ask bicyclists to ride safely, and provide guidelines on how that can be best accomplished. This time, however, we will discuss what motorists can do to improve bicycle safety.
Motorists and bicyclists are safest when they both follow the same traffic rules. Both have the same rights to the road and the same obligations. Motorists and bicyclists should observe speed limits, stop at traffic lights and stop signs, signal when changing lanes, yield the right-of-way where mandated, and maintain safe distances from other vehicles (cars and bicycles alike). Too often motorists and cyclists view each other negatively, but the point is to avert accidents to the benefit of all road users. Here are some ways that motorists can improve bicycle safety:
- Respect bicyclists as legal road users. They are afforded the same rights and responsibilities as motorists on public roads, except where prohibited, such as on most Interstate highways. Obey the posted speed limit, and don't drive too fast for conditions.
- Stop at all stop signs, and yield to cross traffic. Stop for all red lights and, even if the light is green, yield to traffic that has not yet cleared the intersection. Every state requires cyclists and motorists to obey the rules of the road. Failure to stop at a stop signs, traffic signals or "no turn on red" signs contributes in great measure to bicycle and motor-vehicle collisions.
- Always think ahead and observe what is going on around you. Bicycles aren't always easy to see.
- Pass bicyclists only when you can maintain at least 3 feet between the bicycle and your vehicle. When passing, be sure to clear the cyclist before moving back into your lane.
- Stay alert. Be particularly careful to not let isolated stretches lull you into a false sense that nobody is just ahead. A bicycle could loom around the corner or in that blind spot caused by the sun.
- Cyclists who are not on the extreme right-hand side of the lane are probably not being careless, but may in fact be attempting to avoid hazards that could cause a crash, or to be visible sooner around a blind curve.
- Avoid distractions from electronic devices, eating, applying makeup, fumbling through papers or CDs, etc.
- Maintain a safe distance between your vehicle and the bicycle in front of you.
- If you plan to turn right or pull into a parking space shortly, and there is a bicycle in front of you, do not pass. Most bike/car crashes occur at intersections and driveways.
- Signal all turns and lane changes 100 feet in advance.
- Don't honk at cyclists, even at friends to signal recognition. This can startle a cyclist and cause him or her to swerve.
- When parked at the curb, check for cyclists before opening doors. Your door could swing into the path of a cyclist.
Armed with this information, we hope that you will be better positioned to remind your motoring friends and neighbors that we all share the road, and that bicycle safety is their responsibility as well as ours.
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