Sharing the roadways

Bicyclists by; Dmya Edwards

What driver need to know about bicyclists

A cyclist may be a little behind and to the right of you, and may be planning to ride straight ahead. If you don't signal your right turn, you could wind up hitting each other.


Every year, hundreds of bicyclists die in traffic accidents involving motor vehicles, and thousands more are injured, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. Bicycling advocates say drivers can play a big role in reducing those grim statistics, paving the way for peaceful coexistence. It's a two-way street, of course. Bicyclists have responsibilities, too.

1.Appreciate Bicyclist Vulnerability

A car weighs 2 tons or so, while the average bike is a mere 20 pounds, says Tim Blumenthal, president of People for Bikes, an advocacy group.

"In any collision, any physical interaction between car and bike, the bike always loses," he says. "I've never seen a collision where the bike rider came out less injured," he says.

Gary Brustin, a bicycle accident attorney in Santa Monica and San Jose, California, says he has seen the severity of the injuries to cyclists increase in recent years. Among the factors driving the increase, he suspects, are older riders, including baby boomers, whose bones may be more fragile than those of younger riders. An increase in high-speed roads with bike lanes also contributes to the rise, he says.

2. Know Bicyclists' Rights

Drivers sometimes have little idea of the traffic laws that apply to bicyclists. A recent visitor to a message board discussing cyclists and motorists wanted to know why cyclists can't just use the sidewalks.

In fact, bicycles in the roadway are considered vehicles. NHTSA says 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.

The cyclists, then, are on the same level as motorists. Information on the California DMV Web site spells out the law in the Golden State: "Bicycle riders on public roads have the same rights and responsibilities as motorists, and are subject to the same rules and regulations."

The site encourages drivers to ''look carefully for bicyclists before turning left or right, merging into bicycle lanes and opening doors next to moving traffic. Respect the right of way of bicyclists because they are entitled to share the road with you."

3. Adjust That Attitude


Motorists tend to think of cyclists as ''in their way," Clarke says. Rather, they should think of them as equals, just as entitled to the roadway as drivers are, says Clarke and other experts in the cycling community.

Drivers who get impatient with bicyclists might want to stop for a moment and think about the human being on that bike, says Bob Mionske, a Portland cycling attorney and cyclist: What if that rider was my friend, a friend of a friend, or a neighbor? Somehow, seeing bicyclists that way makes people a little more patient, he says. When drivers don't humanize cyclists this way, he finds, they often perceive riders as mere objects.

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why do bicyclists increase driving risk?

Many cyclist casualties are not reported to the police, even when the cyclist is inured badly enough to be taken to hospital. The figures also exclude cycling accidents that occur away from the road. Although the number of deaths is accurate, there could be two or three times as many seriously injured cyclists and double the number of slightly injured. The majority of cyclist casualties are adults, with approximately 11% being children. Cycling accidents increase as children grow older, with 10 to 15 year old riders being more at risk than other age groups, including adults until about the age of 60 years. To some extent, this reflects increased cycling as children grow older followed by a switch to motorised transport from the late teens onwards. It also co-incides with the age when children attend Secondary school and may start to indicate riskier behaviour.

Males are far more likely to be involved in cycling accidents than females. In 2014 65% of child cycling injuries involved a male child and for all male casualties this rose to 81%


  • Around 75% of fatal or serious cyclist accidents occur in urban areas
  • Around half of cyclist fatalities occur on rural roads
  • 75% happen at, or near, a road junction
  • 80% occur in daylight

How can drivers minimize their risks when sharing the roadways with bicyclists?

Bicyclists and in-line skaters have the right to share the road and travel in the same direction as motor vehicles. They are often hard to see in traffic and have no protection from a traffic crash. Check your "blind spots" before you make a turn, parallel park, open a door or leave a curb. Do not depend only on your mirrors - turn your head to look for bicyclists and skaters and scooter operators that may be next to them or approaching.

Give bicyclists and in-line skaters room when you drive. Reduce speed as you pass them. Air pressure from a vehicle that passes them quickly can send them off balance.

  • Ride in a bicycle lane, if available. Where there is none, they must remain near the right curb or edge of the road or on a right shoulder of the road, to prevent interference with other traffic. When they prepare for a left turn or must move left to avoid hazards, cyclists do not have to remain to the right.

  • Come to a full stop before you enter a roadway from a driveway, an alley or over a curb.

  • Never travel with more than two side-by-side in a single lane.

  • Never ride on a sidewalk if it is prohibited by local laws. Signal turns, lane changes and stops through the use of the hand signals shown. A bicyclist can signal a right turn when they extend the right arm straight out to the right.
  • Never carry an infant under a year old as a passenger. It is against the law. Child passengers 1 - 4 years old must ride in attached bicycle safety seats.

  • Never carry a passenger unless the bicycle has a passenger seat.

  • Keep at least one hand on the handlebars at all times and not carry any item which prevents correct control of the bicycle.

  • Any bicycle crash that causes death or serious injury must be reported to DMV within 10 days of the incident. Bicycle accident report forms (MV104C) are available at any motor vehicle office.

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