Millions of people bicycle safely on public roads. But many are scared away because motorists sometimes pass too closely, honk, or tell cyclists to get off the road. Though these behaviors are not the most common source of injuries to cyclists, they are unsafe and illegal. The traffic law says that drivers must pass at a safe distance. When a travel lane is not wide enough to share, safe bicyclists move to the middle of the lane to insure that motorists use the next lane over to pass or wait until it is safe.
Cyclists who ride too close to the edge of the road are risk colliding with suddenly-opening doors of parked cars or falling due to hazards such as sand, poor pavement, or debris. Motorists can help prevent crashes with cyclists by taking care to follow the rules on yielding and turning. Make sure to yield to cyclists when turning left or entering the road from a side street, driveway, or parking lane. Merge completely to the far right edge of the road in advance of making a right turn. Wait for any bicyclist ahead to clear the intersection before you make a right turn — do not turn across the path of the cyclist. Even if there is a bike lane, you should merge into the bike lane before turning right.
Cyclists, in turn, can make themselves safer and respected. Competent cyclists politely cooperate with other drivers by yielding when required, choosing the correct lane at intersections, using lights at night, and otherwise following the same traffic laws as motorists. Such cyclists are far safer than inexperienced cyclists.
Sadly, police and courts don’t always protect cyclists and their right to safe travel. All cyclists are often blamed because some cyclists break rules. The traffic laws apply to individuals, not groups, and protect even those who have previously broken laws. Please ask the police to enforce the traffic laws to protect the public: from cyclists who ride unlawfully and from motorists who use their vehicle to harass or threaten, or who violate the rules on safe passing, turning, or yielding.
|The Selfish Motorist Thinks||The Wise Cyclist Replies|
|Bicyclists don’t belong on the road.||Bicyclists are considered drivers of vehicles and therefore have the same rights to the road as motorists.|
|Bicyclists belong on the sidewalk.||Bicycling on the sidewalk is dangerous to both pedestrians and bicyclists, and is frequently illegal.|
|Bicyclists aren’t licensed so they shouldn’t be on the road.||There is a common law right for anyone to use the public roads. Driving a motor vehicle can create a public danger and therefore is a privilege that can be revoked.|
|Bicyclists don’t pay fuel taxes so they don’t belong on the road.||Paying fuel taxes does not give you the right to use the roads. Moreover, local road work is chiefly funded out of general tax revenues. Almost all bicyclists, or their parents, also drive cars and therefore pay fuel taxes. The cost of bicyclists using the road is minimal compared to the congestion and road damage created by cars and trucks.|
|Bicyclists delay traffic.||Most traffic delay is caused by cars. Bicyclists on a narrow road with traffic volumes close to capacity can create delay. Often the delay may be more apparent than real, as motorists catch up to where they would have been in the wait at traffic lights. Widening narrow roads by a few feet can eliminate the potential delay caused by bicyclists. It is impossible for anyone to use the roads without occasionally causing delay to others.|
|Bicyclists don’t belong on the road because they ignore traffic signals and other road rules.||Just because some bicyclists ignore the rules doesn’t change the law, which says that bicyclists may use the road. The law does also say that bicyclists must follow the traffic rules. Doing so makes bicycling much safer, and increases bicycling’s public esteem.|
|Engineers should design roads for motor vehicles.||Roads should be designed with all legal vehicles in mind, including bicycles.|
|Accounting for bicycles in designing roads is difficult and expensive.||All bicyclists require is smooth and well-maintained pavement, drain grates which are outside of the travel way or otherwise do not prevent a hazard, loop detectors which are sensitive to bicycles, and either smooth shoulders or slightly wider lanes, or both, on arterial and major collector roads.|
|We built bicycle paths so bicyclists should stay off the roads.||Bicyclists who know how to operate in traffic can ride safely almost anywhere; those who do not get hurt everywhere. Some bikeway designs make bicycling slower, more dangerous, or both for bicyclists who want to get some place. Every road is a bikeway.|