Picture this: You see a bicyclist on a thoroughfare in town, driving on the right side of the road , seemingly without a care in the world. Your first thought is probably, “They should be on the sidewalk.” Some aggressive drivers will even lean out their window and honk as they shout, “Get off the road!” There’s an idea that drivers don’t have to share the road with bicyclists, but traffic laws would indicate otherwise. People on bicycles have just as much of a right to the road as any driver does. Here are three things drivers need to know about co-existing with bicyclists.
Bicycles are vehicles too
Check your state laws on bicycles. You’ll almost certainly find that bicycles are considered vehicles rather than obstructions. They may be considered “slow-moving vehicles,” but that’s still a vehicle. Don’t treat them like a garbage bag that you have to swerve around to avoid. In fact, states like Washington advise drivers to leave at least three feet of clearance when you pass a person on a bicycle. Trying to get closer to them in an effort to scare them is both impolite and dangerous.
Bicyclists also have to abide by certain rules of the road. People who grew up in a rural part of America probably remember seeing a tractor pull off the road so several cars can pass. It’s not just a courtesy; it’s also the law for slow-moving vehicles to pull over and let cars pass if five or more faster vehicles have formed a line behind them. Those laws are there to keep traffic flowing and to avoid major traffic jams behind a single bike. If the bicyclist won’t pull off the road, that doesn’t give drivers the right to use a no-crossing zone and pass them — that’s illegal. Those double yellow lines and “Do Not Pass” signs are there for a reason.
Bicycles are no match for cars
Bicyclists don’t go out on the town looking to fight with a driver. For one thing, a bicycle that weighs 20 pounds is no match for a car that weighs two tons. It’s not even a contest, and they know that they’re going to get the short end of the stick if a collision occurs. They have every incentive to avoid getting into a car-bicycle accident, because it’s not a fair fight at all.
That’s even more reason to be aware of the fact that bicyclists are going to be riding alongside you on your local roadways. You need to be on the lookout for them everywhere, but especially in bike-friendly cities like Portland, Montreal, and Austin. After you park your car, get into the habit of looking in your driver’s side rear view mirror for approaching bicyclists before you open the door. Too many bicyclists have been riding along and minding their own business when, out of nowhere, a door appears and strikes them off of their bicycle.
Colliding with a bicycle can have legal consequences
If you do hit a bicyclist with your car, don’t expect them to just accept your apology and ride away. If they’re injured, it’s likely they’re not physically capable of riding or walking away. Police can cite you on the scene if they find out that the accident was your fault, and that’s not all. There are plenty of law firms like Avrek that specialize in representing injured bicyclists seeking damages for their injury.
None of this means you should be afraid of bicyclists, but you should respect them. You should also make sure you have plenty of bodily injury liability coverage on your auto insurance. Not having enough injury coverage is as bad an idea as not having renters insurance in New Jersey or flood insurance in Florida
Remember: share the road with bicyclists. They have just as much a right to be there as you do.