Bicycling is more popular as a mode of transportation than ever. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration reports a 64% increase in cyclists traveling to work from 2000 to 2012. The influx of cyclists on the road presents new challenges for motorists, so here are eight tips for drivers on sharing the road with bicycles.
- Bicyclists have a right to the road.
Always keep in mind that bicycles are legally considered vehicles. They are just as entitled to the road as you are, not just the shoulder of the road. Lots of circumstances can force bicyclists to ride in the traffic lane rather than the shoulder, such as potholes, sewers and litter that they must avoid.
- Drive at least three feet away from cyclists.
Giving cyclists at least three feet of clearance is the law in several states, and good sense everywhere. Extra clearance allows the cyclist to swerve around dangers in the road without hitting a car.
- Be patient.
Cyclists face speed limitations that cars don’t, which can be annoying when they ride in front of you. But give bicyclists the right of way when necessary, even when it slows you down. Pass cyclists with caution and only when it’s safe to do so. What’s more important, saving a couple minutes on your commute or avoiding a potentially life-threatening accident?
- Avoid the right hook.
Do not pass a bicyclist and make a right turn in front of them. The cyclist may be going straight and won’t have time to avoid running into you when you make your turn. This is called a right hook, and it’s the most common cause of accidents between motorists and cyclists.
- Avoid turning left when being approached by people on bicycles.
When making a left turn, take an extra second to look for bicyclists going in the opposite direction. Be aware that cyclists may be going faster than you think, and always err on the side of caution.
- Don’t blast your horn.
Horns can be a useful method of communication between cars, and you may be tempted to honk at the cyclist right in front of you who does something illegal or inconsiderate. But keep in mind that a horn sounds much louder, and thus more startling, to a cyclist than to another driver. Honking while close to a cyclist can cause him or her lose control of the bike, making his or her cycling worse rather than better.
- Don’t park in bike lanes.
Parking in the bike lane even for a few seconds forces bicyclists to cut into traffic lanes where drivers don’t expect them. Keep cyclists and other drivers safe by staying out of the bike lane
- Use caution when exiting your vehicle.
Another common cause of bicycle accidents is called dooring. It occurs when a driver opens his or her door in front of an oncoming bicycle, throwing the rider off the bike. Always look behind you before opening your door into the road. It’s nearly impossible for a bicyclist to know if someone is about to open his or her door.
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