5 Ways Drivers Can Safely Share the Road With Cyclists

These days, traffic fatalities between motorists and cyclists are on the rise.

In response to that unsettling finding, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration says it will promote automatic braking and other technology modifications. But as Streetsblog notes, ”The agency doesn’t mention systemic threats to people walking and biking, like streets designed for excessive motorist speeds.”

As we wait for large-scale change, drivers can still do their part in sharing the road.

In honor of Bike to Work Day on May 19, here’s a handful of tips for car drivers to keep cyclists safe.

1. Give them space.

One of the most terrifying scenarios for a cyclist is a driver who drives too close. That certainly held true for me, as I commuted to work by bike every day for a year in Santa Fe, New Mexico.

Most drivers are courteous. They pass in another lane, or stay patient until the street widens enough for them to go around. Others don’t care. I remember my elbow almost scraping someone’s vehicle as they drove by.

Giving cyclists space is more than thoughtful, of course. Many states require passing cars to give cyclists at least three feet of clearance — but please give us more, if you can!

It’s also safer. One coroner in Ontario, Canada, found that most fatal bike collisions in the area happened when cars attempted to pass cyclists, for instance.

2. Watch for cyclists.

As drivers, we’re bombarded with messages that we don’t always follow. Put away your phone. Don’t put on makeup at stoplights. Avoid reaching for a snack while driving.

I’ve definitely done all of the above.

Meanwhile, bicycle accident attorney Gary Brustin tells Edmunds that he’s heard the same thing from drivers for 20 years: ”I never saw him before I hit him.”

Distracted driving is an easy trap to fall into. We need to make looking for cyclists a habit instead.

Try free cellphone apps, like On My Way and It Can Wait, if you have trouble resisting glances at texts.

3. Hold back your road rage.

Sadly, cyclists don’t always follow the law. Whether they cut across lanes of traffic, don’t stop at the stop sign — unless it’s Idaho, where they just have to yield — or ride in a driving lane when there’s a bike lane available, it can become frustrating.

Resist the urge to scream at cyclists or drive too closely behind them. They aren’t protected like you. And in a fight between the bike and car, the car always wins.

Also, stay updated on cycling laws in your area. I’ve had several people shout at me to ride on the sidewalk, which is generally unsafe and prohibited in some areas.

4. Cycle yourself.

A University of Colorado Denver study shows that more cyclists on the road mean fewer accidents. When drivers expect to encounter bikes, they’re more likely to watch out for them.

If you can, consider biking yourself. It’s a great way to get exercise, fresh air and even move faster through congested traffic.

Remember to wear your helmet. And keep your end of the deal by practicing good biking etiquette and following all laws.

5. Advocate for better bicycling infrastructure.

Bicycling infrastructure entails more than simply building bike lanes and paths. It also includes maintaining those bike lanes and ensuring they remain clear.

Urban planners should consider traffic circles, which may slow cars more than those charging toward a yellow stop light.

Housing affordability plays a part too – people who are most likely to rely on bikes as their main method of transportation are less likely to have a safe place to ride to where they work and play.

And community bike shops can always use additional support. Many offer bikes for cheap or free for those who can’t afford them.

Take a look around your city. Are there potholes where bikes are supposed to go? Like in Santa Fe, do bike lanes randomly end on some streets, meaning cyclists need to brave traffic or bike perilously on the sidewalk or dirt beside the road? In the winter, are they plowed?

If conditions aren’t up to par, demand they change. Lifehacker provides some good tips for addressing local government officials.

Keeping cyclists safe is a responsibility for drivers, cyclists, city and state officials and car manufacturers alike. Let’s all do our part.

Photo Credit: Richard Masoner/Flickr

50 comments

william Miller
william Miller3 days ago

thanks

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Lisa M
Lisa M4 days ago

Noted.

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Lisa M
Lisa M4 days ago

Noted.

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Jetana A
Jetana A5 days ago

Stay aware, and be polite!

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Margie F
Margie FOURIE6 days ago

If everyone driving and riding were to be in the moment, and not distracted, the accidents would decrease.

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Peggy B
Peggy B6 days ago

TYFS

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Vincent T
Vincent T6 days ago

All good. Thanks.

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Carl R
Carl R7 days ago

Thanks!!!

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Elizabeth H
Elizabeth H7 days ago

In the U.K. it's illegal to use your hand held phone whilst driving but a shocking number of idiots still do it.

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Danuta W
Danuta Watola7 days ago

thanks for sharing

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