In recent years, more Americans have chosen to ride bicycles to stay healthy and as an alternative to driving. This has resulted in a rapid increase in the installation of separated bicycle lanes for rider safety in urban and suburban areas from coast to coast. Yet, thousands of bicyclists are injured or killed in crashes involving a motor vehicle on the nation’s roads annually. These injuries and fatalities peak in the warmer months, starting in May, which also happens to be National Bicycle Safety Month.
Drivers can play a big role in reducing these grim statistics. Here are some tips on how to effectively share the road with bicyclists:
Start safely. Be well rested and familiar with local laws concerning bicyclists in the areas where you’ll be driving. Know your route, and identify potential problem spots. Perform a pre-trip inspection, as prescribed by law, and check your mirror settings and clean your windshield for maximum visibility. Use your headlights, even in daylight, to make it easier for bicyclists to see you.
Scan for bicyclists on the street and sidewalk, coming out of driveways and in parking lots. Obstructions, such as trees, signs, poles, buildings, and parked vehicles may hide cyclists, especially children, from view. Inclement weather, low-light conditions and blind spots can also diminish your ability to see. Moreover, a bicycle’s small profile makes it hard to judge its distance and speed. Double-check your mirrors and blind spots before changing lanes. Remember too that a bicycle’s maneuverability allows riders to cut between other vehicles.
Consider road and weather conditions, and adjust your speed accordingly. When weather is bad, it will take more time and distance to stop should a bicyclist unexpectedly swerve.
Pay extra attention in school zones and residential areas, as well as near playgrounds and parks, and be ready to stop. Youngsters can be impulsive, often fail to look both ways before crossing the street, and won’t have the same riding skills as mature cyclists do.
Don’t block a crosswalk when stopped at a red light or waiting to turn. Forcing bicyclists to go around your vehicle puts them in the path of moving traffic. Yield the right of way, and wait patiently until cyclists have crossed completely before proceeding. Avoid honking the horn or revving your engine when bicyclists are in front of your vehicle in a crosswalk…you can startle them, causing them to lose control.
Exercise extreme care at intersections. Scan both sides of the street for bicyclists as you approach the intersection, and be prepared to come to a full stop. Before turning, signal well in advance and yield to cyclists as you would other motorists. When turning right, watch for bicyclists that may encroach in the space between your vehicle and the curb. Be alert and very cautious if crossing over a bike lane when setting up or making a turn.
Allow plenty of room between your vehicle and bicyclists as they may swerve, brake suddenly, or even fall. While some roads have bike lanes, riders may enter into a motor vehicle lane to execute a left turn or to avoid hazards, such as debris or potholes. Keep your distance to safely share the road with bicyclists and stay alert.
Only pass a bicyclist when it’s safe to do so. When passing, proceed slowly and smoothly, and allow an extra wide berth, while keeping aware of traffic approaching from the other direction. If you don’t have sufficient room, DO NOT attempt to pass.
Be especially attentive to cyclists wearing headphones or earbuds. These devices can mask outside noises, such as traffic, sirens and horns and may cause the wearer to become distracted.
Remember, bicycle riders on public roads have the same rights and privileges that you do. Remain extra vigilant WHENEVER and WHEREVER bicyclists—or anyone riding any other small vehicle, such as electric bikes, mopeds, e-scooters, and skateboards—are present, and treat them as you would any slow-moving vehicle. Be patient and understand that riders are in a much more vulnerable position than you are. At the end of the day, it’s about doing all you can to safely share the road.
Article provided by Lancer Insurance co.