Recreational and competitive cycling has soared in the 21st century, and the number of people commuting by bike has increased about 60 percent over the last decade. Bicyclists are required to follow many of the same rules and responsibilities as other motorists. Unlike licensed vehicle drivers, cyclists are not always legally required to obtain any special licensing, have any inspection of their bike, or wear any specific safety gear. Instead, some states do have restrictions where they ride such as divided, limited-access highways.
Why your drivers should be cautious of cyclists
Regardless of the rider, type of bike, accessories included, or even the safety gear worn, a collision between a bike and a motor vehicle can be significantly more devastating to the cyclist. The National Highway Safety Transportation Administration (NHTSA) notes that in 2014, bicyclists accounted for 2 percent of all traffic deaths and 2 percent of all crash-related injuries. Most of these deaths occurred between 6 p.m. and 9 p.m. and 71 percent were in urban areas.
A moment’s distraction can lead to missing the small profile provided by a cyclist, and even with the proper protective equipment, a cyclist can be seriously injured or killed. Watch this story to see how big the impact can be when a driver is distracted.
Tips to prevent collisions with cyclists
Prevention starts with recognizing where you might encounter cyclists. Roads that have bike lanes or crossings may be obvious, however urban areas may have cyclists commuting regardless of signage. Rails to Trails and Share the Road programs are giving many riders safer pathways, but may still include exposure to vehicle traffic. Even parking lots can present a danger as they maneuver around cars they expect to be stationary.
Drivers should also be aware that cyclists could be clipped into their pedals making it difficult to put their feet down to pause their motion. Never underestimate a cyclists speed or their inability to stop, especially on downhill slopes. Here are a few more tips to help drivers be mindful of cyclists:
- Reduce your vehicle speed when bikes are nearby so you have time to stop if a cyclist makes any sudden maneuvers
- Give cyclists at least three to five feet of space around their bike (check local guidelines, as some states have specific distance allowances)
- Yield to cyclists; like pedestrians, they might not always follow standard rules of the road, but drivers should give them the right of way
- Observe around and behind the vehicle before backing up, turning, or opening vehicle doors
- Pass cyclists only when it is safe to do so and use the other lane, if traffic allows, to give them plenty of space
- Use your lights to make yourself known, but try to avoid startling them with your horn
- Respect bike lanes by avoiding traveling or parking in them