• Defensive Driving Rule #41: Share the Road With Bicyclists

    One of the problems bicyclists face is motorists who think they don't belong on the road. As drivers, we must share roadways safely with all users, and bicyclists have every right to be out there.

    Many drivers are not thinking about bicycles and often do not see them. Keep watch for bikes and be wary in places they might be around. Especially around intersections, there's potential for conflict with bikes -- watch out for riders who ignore traffic signals, make turns on the roadway, or change lanes erratically.

    Bicyclists get injured or killed riding the wrong way (against the traffic). If you are exiting a drive, a side street, or a parking lot, and plan to make a right turn onto the road, look to the right for bicyclists BEFORE crossing the sidewalk. We often look only to the left, watching for a break in traffic. A rider coming from the right is often not seen; and the resultant collisions cause many injuries and deaths.

    Bike lanes are for bikes, so don't drive or park in them. Be especially careful to allow bikes to merge with the flow of traffic as they get close to an intersection. Don't drive on paved shoulders (and don't use them for right turns). Yield the right of way to a bicyclist the same way as you would for any other vehicle, and follow the same rules. Don't crowd them, and don't cut them off. If you are parked along a roadway, be careful not to open your door into the path of a bike -- take a look first and make sure the path is clear.

    It is inappropriate to use your horn to tell a bicyclist to get out of the way. Startling bicyclists in this way may cause them to lose control or swerve into traffic. Remember they have the right to use the road, so be careful to pass a bike only when it is safe to do so. You must give the bike plenty of room when passing. You endanger cyclists and risk a citation if you pass them too closely or cut them off when passing. The recommended clearance is five feet between your vehicle and the bike -- more if you drive a very large vehicle. If there's no room to pass safely, then your ONLY option is to follow them at a safe distance until there is.

    Allow bicycles room to maneuver around hazards. There's often trash (don't litter!), broken glass, and other debris in the areas where bicycles operate. Even a sewer grate or storm drain can cause problems. Trash collects on the sides and center of a road, thrown and blown by tires and wind, then trapped by walls, fences and curbs. Bicyclists will move into traffic to avoid these dangers, and they have the right to use the ENTIRE lane if needed. Anticipate, slow down, and give them room. Allow them to negotiate railroad tracks -- they may need to move into the road to cross them.

    Sharing the road with bicycles is not that difficult, but it requires us to think, use common sense, always be courteous, and drive responsibly so that we don't cause increased danger or harm.

    Relax, and don't get wrapped around the axle!