A growing number of Americans are strapping on their helmets and hopping on their bicycles to get exercise or commute to work. In larger U.S. cities, the share of bike commuters nearly doubled between 2006 and 2014, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. For drivers, this influx may have an impact on their daily driving habits. If cyclists and drivers don’t know how to share the road, it may lead to a dangerous situation for both sides. Before you get in your vehicle, consider these five tips for safely sharing the roads with bicycles.
Cyclists have the same right to the road as any other vehicle, and they’re required to follow the same laws as drivers, according to the League of American Bicyclists.
To help safely share the road, Greg Borzo, author of “Where to Bike Chicago,” recommends that drivers put themselves in a cyclist’s shoes and try to imagine the difficulties they would face if a driver were inattentive.
It can be helpful to understand the hand signals that cyclists use to communicate their next move. They use these signals to let others know when they’re stopping, changing lanes or turning, according to the League of American Bicyclists. These include sticking the left arm straight out to indicate a left turn, holding the left arm up at a 90-degree angle to indicate a right turn, and pointing the left arm down at a 90-degree angle to indicate a stop or slowdown, the league says.
To help prevent a swipe or collision, drivers should allow plenty of room between their car and a cyclist when passing a bike on the street, says the National Highway Traffic Safety Association (NHTSA). Drivers should pass bicyclists as if overtaking another vehicle — when it’s safe to move into an adjacent lane, the NHTSA adds.
One of the easiest rules for drivers and cyclists alike is to not wear headphones connected to any device while you’re on the road, the NHTSA says. Drivers and cyclists both need to be fully aware of their surroundings and able to see and hear everything that may present a danger or an obstacle.
Drivers may think they’re in the clear after they’ve parked their car on the side of the road, but they may still pose a threat to a cyclist if they aren’t alert, according to the American Safety Council (ASC). Drivers should check to see if anyone’s coming before opening their car door, the ASC recommends, especially if there is a bike lane separating the parking lane from the driving lane.
Following these five tips can help drivers share the road with cyclists, helping everyone have a safe and pleasant ride.