As a frequent driver, you’ve probably noticed more and more bikes on the road. Bicycling is steadily on the rise, as more people realize the health, cost, and environmental benefits of pedaling rather than driving. Sharing the road can be tricky, especially because many drivers AND bicyclists don’t always know the laws regarding bicycling on the roads. In a crash between a car and a bicycle, you can be pretty sure you’ll be safe in your car. You don’t, however, want to injure or kill a bicyclist due to careless error. You can only control your own actions while driving, so here are some tips for safely sharing the road with bicyclists.
It’s very important that you realize that vulnerability of bicyclists. They are exposed – they’re not in any type of protective enclosure. Your vehicle weighs two tons or more, and it can go much faster. Even though it is a biker’s responsibility to bike safely, be extra cautious and forgiving when driving near bicyclists, because their mistakes that are nuisances to you are life-threatening to them.
Know the Traffic Laws
On the road, bicyclists are supposed to act just like any other vehicle. They should stop, signal, follow the right-of-way, and obey all other traffic laws and regulations you’re expected to. As a driver, this means that you should count bikes as other cars on the road, yielding to them, giving them the right of way, or looking out for them just as you would any other vehicle. Knowing this will help you understand what to do when sharing the road with bikers.
Watch Right Turns
When turning right, you should always glance behind you to see if any bikers are coming up on the side of the road. If you turn in front of them, it could cause a collision. Make sure you use your turn signals, and only turn if you have enough clearance. Bikes travel a lot more quickly than you’d realize, so yield if you’re unsure about the time you’d have to make the turn and avoid a crash.
Look Before Exiting Your Car
If you’re parked on the side of the road, always look behind you before you open your car door. Exiting your car too quickly could cause you to accidentally open your car door right in the path of a bicyclist. Because a biker can’t anticipate when you’re going to open your car door, it’s up to you to make sure the coast is clear before exiting.
Give Three Feet of Space
Many states have enacted laws that require drivers to give bicyclists three feet of space. Whether your state is one of them or not, it’s a good idea to stay three feet away from any bicyclists nearby. It’s just a safer practice. Getting too close to a bicyclist reduces the time and space you’d have to stop and avoid a crash, and it makes the bicyclist nervous. The breathing room makes things a lot safer and calmer for everyone on the road.
Daniel Smith is a father and mechanical engineer with Nissan auto who loves to get out and cycle whenever possible. He loves to blog about cars and he often writes about anything from vehicle safety to protecting yourself while out on the road.