One way or another, we all have places we need to be. Whether your preferred method of travel is by bike or car, creating a safe environment for everyone on the road should be priority number 1.
While this might sound easy, the thousands of car-bicycle accidents that occur each year point to a slightly more complicated scenario. Use these eight safety tips to do your part and help cyclists and motorists coexist.
TIPS FOR MOTORISTS
As a motorist, part of your responsibility is to create a safe environment for all the users of the roadways to limit unnecessary accidents. Here are a few tips you can put into practice to help keep cyclists safe while you’re operating a vehicle.
MAINTAIN A SAFE PASSING DISTANCE
Most states have laws concerning safe passing distance when overtaking a cyclist on the right side of the road. While the exact distance can vary, it is usually 3–5 feet. Instead of squeezing past a cyclist and potentially clipping him or her when space is limited, slow your speed and wait until traffic conditions allow you to pass without putting a cyclist into a potentially dangerous situation. Always check over your shoulder after passing before moving back into the right portion of the lane.
PUT THE DUTCH REACH INTO PRACTICE
In the Netherlands, this technique is taught in driver’s ed to help keep cyclists safe. Whenever you park your car on the shoulder of a road, practice reaching across your body for the door handle with your right hand instead of your left. This will remind you to look into the rearview mirror and scan over your left shoulder for cyclists who may be approaching from behind. While this might sound silly, the technique can be a lifesaver and keep you from opening your car door into an oncoming cyclist accidently.
BE CAUTIOUS WHEN TURNING RIGHT
Most motorists have a hard time judging the speed at which cyclists are traveling. One potentially dangerous situation that occurs frequently is overtaking a cyclist while turning right, directly into his or her line of travel. To avoid this, always signal in advance and check over your shoulder before you turn right to check for cyclists. This ensures you aren’t accidentally cutting off a cyclist who may be unable to stop in time and helps avoid an unnecessary collision.
DON’T TREAT CYCLISTS AS OBSTACLES
We get it. Driving is stressful, time-consuming and probably the last thing you want to be doing some days. But treating cyclists as obstacles in your way is a dangerous way to think of people, and can cause you to get angry when you’re forced to slow down your car. To help you put things into perspective, try to appreciate the vulnerability of cyclists a little bit more. Use extra caution when passing, using your horn or proceeding through intersections. Remember, in a car you are somewhat protected from your surroundings, but on a bike the slightest bump or miscalculation could be life altering.
TIPS FOR CYCLISTS
Creating a safe environment on the road isn’t just the responsibility of motorists. Here are a few things cyclists should do to coexist with other vehicles on the road.
FOLLOW ALL TRAFFIC LAWS
Rolling through stop signs, speeding through red lights, riding against traffic and not giving pedestrians the right of way are some of the things cyclists are guilty of doing that can be dangerous and create a negative image to other users of the road. If you want motorists to do their part and obey traffic laws, cyclists should, too. Be good ambassadors of the sport by following all of the same rules as motorists and always practicing defensive habits instead of being overly aggressive.
SIGNAL SO DRIVERS KNOW YOUR INTENTIONS
Being predictable on the road can go a long way toward staying safe. Braking suddenly, swerving into the lane and not signaling when you need to get around an obstacle or turn can create a dangerous environment for everyone. Know all of your hand signals and use them any time you need to turn or move out of your straight line of travel. This makes drivers, pedestrians and other cyclists behind you aware of your intentions.
STAY TO THE RIGHT, BUT AVOID SIDEWALKS
In many states, riding a bike on the sidewalk is illegal. This is because motorists are primarily focused on the road and aren’t scanning for vehicles traveling at high speeds on the sidewalk. Coming off the sidewalk into an intersection or speeding through an entryway as a car is turning right and not expecting you can potentially cause an accident. For this reason, it’s always safer to ride on the road in the right-hand portion of the lane to give motorists more visibility.
BE AS VISIBLE AS POSSIBLE
With so many distractions on the road, cyclists can be hard to see. Whether it’s the evening hours or the middle of the afternoon, cyclists should do everything they can to be as visible as possible and stand out from their surroundings. This includes wearing reflective clothing, equipping your bike with a headlight and tail light and signaling when you need to turn. Investing in new technology like the Garmin Varia bike lights could be a good idea, too, and allows you to detect approaching motorists from behind and adjusts its lighting according to the proximity of approaching vehicles.