Motorists Should Know

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.

72 Responses to “Motorists Should Know

  • theurbancentaur
    3 years ago

    My favorite is the sidewalk argument. The safety issue is not most fundamentally hitting a pedestrian with headphones or falling due to the unpredictable sharp turns that many sidewalks have, it’s reduced visibility to cars as you cross both side streets and intersections. I live in Phoenix and everyday I see people fly past the line they were supposed to stop at before they prepare for a right turn. If you are farther into the street these types of people are less likely to kill you; a benefit that I rather enjoy. The bottom line is that the roads are for transportation and that you don’t somehow have extra rights based on the “weight class” of your mode of transportation. That attitude on the part of many ignorant motorist is what gives birth to the fuck-you attitude of many cyclists and is why they decide to ride aggressively rather than defensively. We are the generally the only ones playing by the rules. Even police contribute to this. The other day I was taking up a whole lane, because there was no bike lane AND no sidewalk, and a cop came up right behind me and laid on his horn. Regardless of your lame opinions, the law permits cyclist the same rights because we have not yet been classified as sub-human. We wish you all the best in your pursuits of passing such a bill, but until then, stop being an ass and pay attention.

  • Diana Thornton
    3 years ago

    What most of you fail to recognize is that it is illegal in most jurisdictions to ride bikes on a side walk. According to bicycle laws in virtually every state, bikes must travel on the roadway and in those states bicycles have all the rights and obligations of motor vehicles. Roads were here long before cars were, which replaced horses AND bicycles as primary modes of transportation thanks to the palm greasing by General Motors to rid us of public transportation and the common use of other forms of transporation so that they cold sell more cars. Obesity, caused in great part by dependency on cars to haul our lazy, selfish, huge butts around, is estimated to cost as much as 68 billion a year in excess health care costs, not to mention the extra costs for businesses who must provide oversized seats and other accomodations for our ever expanding backsides. Most trips people make are for trips of less than three miles, easily bikeable or walkable.
    Since I’ve started biking regularly, I’ve been much less stressed, lost twenty pounds and experience a sense of freedom I haven’t felt since I was a kid.
    Selfishness is an epidemic in this country and it shows itself most glaringly and destructively on the highways.
    Next time you see a cyclist ahead of you, imagine that it’s someone you know and love and approach in that respect. They are loved by someone and are trying to stay healthy, happy and are trying to help to be a solution to a huge problem, rather than contributing to it like lane hogging, self absorbed motorists who help to kill 33,000 people a year on highways.

  • I HONESTLY come from the old school – just follow the rules – plane and simple. We ALL have a right to be on the road. Pass a bike as though it is a slow moving vehicle. Just as bikes should NOT pass cars on the right on the road. Bikes should signal. Bikes should yelled to pedestrians and stop for pedestrians especially in a cross walks. Gosh, we are all here together so WHY NOT work together to make the streets a safer place for everyone. If a cyclist needs training ground there are more than likely “open road” areas – not in town areas. No bikes do not belong on sidewalks just as cars are not allowed on sidewalks for the same reason. Cyclists SHOULD be ticketing for speeding, not stopping @ lights, or stop signs, or riding on the wrong side of the road. I would think it would be a financial help to a community if violators, both cars and cyclists be ticketed. We all have been guilty @ one time. I am an avid cyclist and see on a daily bases that both cars and cyclists either are unaware of the rules of the road or they honestly hope they can get away with their violations. Unfortunately, it is a no brainer who will be the “winner” when it comes to a car/bike dual. Yes, I do love the last paragraph from Diana Thorton – like I said before, I am from the “old school” I just ENJOY riding my bike !!!!!!

  • Chris
    3 years ago

    Growing in NYC and living in SF and Boston I can attest that there are numerous benefits to riding a bike in such environments. When I was a bartender in downtown Boston I never had to deal with parking, for example. Just a quick four mile ride to work. Conversely, I occasionally had to deal with drunk drivers and individuals attempting to jump me on the way home. We’ll call this my “street cred” disclaimer.

    Here in San Francisco we have a lively cycling community, however, as I experienced in NYC and Boston, there also exists an extraordinary amount of cyclists that insist on sharing the road yet they have no desire to obey traffic laws. They will curse at you if you are in their way yet think nothing of running red lights or stop signs. Many of them like to wave the flag of cyclists rights and are extremely sensitive to constructive criticism. Some that commute with me on Market Street act as if they are in a road race and get annoyed when other commuter cyclists are “too slow.” Too bad. Share the road.

    Here is an interesting article:

    http://www.sfexaminer.com/local/crime/2013/03/san-francisco-cyclist-chris-bucchere-accused-felony-manslaughter-was-bike-safety

  • Brian
    3 years ago

    My wife and I decided to commute by bike rather than car recently and have been putting hundreds of hours on the roads. The decision was made to be healthy because I genetically have extremely high cholesterol and a family history of heart disease. We also pull our 1.5 year old daughter on a trailer behind us when we go places together. Because of the little one, we researched extensively bicycle safety and were surprised to find that most American Medical Association (AMA) research studies actually showed that we were 2-5 times more likely to be involved in a fatal accident with a motor vehicle while riding on the sidewalk than on the street. Cyclists are also equally as likely to die as they would be riding a car and less likely to die on a bike than as a pedestrian commuter. The SAFEST way to ride a bike also requires the cyclist to “take the full lane” under many circumstances. If for any reason the ride-able surface of the road is not wide enough for a bicycle and car to travel side-by-side with a few feet in between them, the cyclist should take up the entire lane. This is not to be mean, selfish, rude, or dangerous in any way. It prevents a motorist from have a false sense of security and attempting to pass the bike too closely without changing lanes. If the cyclist is in the middle of the lane, it does create an inconvenience for the motorist, but keeps the cyclist from being hit. It is very unlikely that a car will not see a cyclist directly in front of him and run him over. I do this often with my daughter behind me because I know that I need to have a minimum of a 16 foot wide lane to ride on the right shoulder safely. I plan my routes to take the safest roads which sometimes includes larger roads (even with 50+ mph speed limits) because they are often times wider and safer. When it comes to my daughter’s life, I take the safest course of action, even if it means slowing down traffic. I also do not ride on bicycle lanes which are narrower than 4 feet wide. I will take the center of the car lane in that situation also for my personal safety. I get honked at, cussed at, and yelled at by motorists on a daily basis and just have understand that they don’t have the same knowledge and experience I have. I would much rather have a motorist be yelling at me than accidentally run me and my daughter over because they did not see us or thought that there was enough room to pass. I want to kindly help motorists reading this comment understand why we slow them down sometimes. I also want to thank every motorist who I inconvenience and especially if you simply move on with your day and pass me safely instead of honking or yelling at me. I have struggled with exercise and diet for my whole life and commuting by bike is literally saving my life. Even though I have to agree that 3 out of 4 cyclists are not safe and even rude to motorists, we’re not all that way and we do have safety reasons to ride in the center of the lane and slow down traffic on a 50 mph street. Saying all that, my goal is still to ride as far right as possible, but only when the road is extra wide or there is a bike lane. Most shoulders are NOT safe for cyclists because of the debris that collect there and the fact that I average 30 mph on a flat road and 40+ downhill (without the baby trailer obviously).

  • Shalom
    3 years ago

    Cyclists are not required by law to have a license to be on the road. This can cause ignorant cyclists to take to the road and risk both his/her life and the common driver that is on a narrow street. Many cars wish to go the speed limit – this is because it is the most efficient speed to travel at. Cyclists, however, do not have the capability to go the speed limit, thus limiting the speeds of any motor vehicle. Because of the lack of education for the common cyclists, they make mistakes such as avoiding lights through the usage of pedestrian crossing lanes. This infuriates me as a driver because it puts many people in danger. Roads are meant for motorists – some roads are meant for cyclists (see bike roads). With motorists, you can understand that they at least have a modicum of knowledge of the roads. With cyclists, you do not know if they are a seasoned veteran, or a new cyclist. Because of this, motorists must be cautious at all times, whereas they usually picked the car because they wished to be efficient, not cautious.
    Someone in a comment said that cyclists on the sidewalk have many dangers, such as benches, children, old people, etc. It’s the same for the car when he sees the cyclist. Cyclists are small, can be ignorant, extremely slow, close to seeming like they are unmoving as a car usually is going faster.
    I don’t mind seeing cyclists on the road – after they pass a test to get their license to cycle on the road. Good cyclists are not bad for the road community, but bad cyclists that break rules give cyclists a bad reputation.
    Cyclists have a bad reputation to be too slow, and sometimes plain rude. Drivers have the bad reputation of being rude, cruel, and unforgiving.
    Cyclists should get a license to be able to cycle safely on the road. Too many bad cyclists are in the world that will get into accidents with cars because they wish to be efficient as well (Avoiding red lights).

  • It seems to me that a proper punishment for motorists that hit cyclists would be to revoke their license for a year, impound their car, and only allow that person the use of either; A public transportation, or B a bicycle for the aforementioned year.

  • A Fellow Traveler
    3 years ago

    I’m a college student in Brazil, majoring in Architecture and Urban Planning. I am also a driver – I like to think a conscientious one, although we all have our bad days. Unfortunately, the level of discourse regarding traffic and road sharing issues in my country is eons behind what’s happening in North America, Europe and the rest of the developed world, which is why most of my online research is done in English or French. I wish I also spoke Dutch or Norwegian or German… But it is always a pleasure for me to find places such as this, featuring a healthy discussion with (mostly) polite and well thought out arguments in the comments section – which is a rarity in and of itself. The mention of guns and the suggestion of using a weapon as a means of deterring would-be reckless drivers by more than one commenter here makes me cringe, though, and I can’t help but wonder if the cyclists ‘packing heat’ see the irony of their position: – one could argue that they are taking the same posture as the offending driver, threatening a fellow road-user (regardless of their stupidity) with bodily harm or even death in such a callous way. In my experience I have found that is always better to avoid confrontation and let the other party go on their own way, regardless of who is in ‘the right’. As someone before me pointed out, being right doesn’t protect you from being hurt or killed, be it by traffic or handgun. And in any case, I believe you can’t claim self-defence if evidence shows you could have avoided the confrontation or taken some sort of evasive action, as is most often the case in these situations.
    But I digress. I know that the issues of bike lanes versus side paths, and that of lane sharing is a very divisive one, and one which everybody and their grandma seem to have an opinion on. But given the wide diversity of road configurations, I feel somewhat safe to say that each of them have their merits, and each solution can be used judiciously, taking into account the specific environmental variables of the place where they are proposed for, and then doing the best possible to educate all the road faring parties about their use and how to coexist peacefully. It is also crucial to enforce the laws and to punish effectively any and all infractions. Unfortunately, we don’t live in a perfect world, nor are we perfect people. There are many challenges to making these things work, especially when you are dealing with old infrastructure in an urban environment that is mostly already built and very unaccommodating of change. Because of, or sometimes in spite of this, bike lanes, side paths and other traffic ‘improvements’ are usually implemented more as a political statement than anything else. I hope there is a special circle of hell for naïve traffic engineers and urban planners… For instance, my city has recently ‘renovated’ the full length of a main artery and installed side paths on the sidewalks. It now has four narrow lanes going each direction (there used to be two and three wider ones), with adjacent parking (which used to be on a side road) and a small grass median (which used to be wider). I absolutely hate what they did, since the old marginal roads allowed parking and merging in and out of the main road to coexist peacefully with the safe transit of bicycles and pedestrians, all the while eliminating the use of stoplights through most of its length. Now it is dotted with stoplights and at-grade direct intersections which make the side path situation even worse for the driver, as it makes merging safely in and out of the main road really hard when there is bike traffic, which now is really hard to see. Right-hand turns are especially atrocious. I’m sure it makes things hard for pedestrians too, as it eats away a large portion of their already limited space, not to mention insanely dangerous for the cyclists. It was extremely ill-advised and I’m sure that someone will be seriously hurt there one of these days. In case someone is curious, here is the Google Street View link: (http://goo.gl/tWj4Y). The satellite view shows the updated configuration, while the street view still shows how things used to be.
    Anyway, I’m currently working on a urban requalification project for a college assignment, set in an older part of the city, where the streets are narrower –two lanes wide –, and there is adjacent parking on both sides of the streets. They are all one-way streets. City blocks in this part of the city are rather short, at around 300 ft., with narrow sidewalks with heavy pedestrian traffic. Top vehicular speed is about 35 mph, and there are no bike lanes, paths or anything. In this assignment I am allowed and encouraged to propose new regulations, traffic signaling and such. There is an issue I wanted to address in this assignment: – Sometimes, when I’m at a stoplight and waiting to make a right (or left) turn onto a secondary street, a cyclist (or more) pulls out to my right (or to my left), filtering forward. Although I’m clearly signaling my intention to make a right or left turn, the cyclist(s) want to go straight, and they actively prevent me from doing so once the light turns green. Since I don’t want to cut off anyone I have to delay the turn, and wait for cyclists going single-file that can take several seconds. It may not seem much, but on short blocks with relatively short stoplight times this can cause a sizeable delay and is very frustrating for drivers. I’m not one to honk and swear, but most people seldom make good drivers when they are frustrated, and this is something that could be avoided. It is my understanding that the forward-going cyclist should yield to the driver who is waiting to make a turn, or maybe avoid keeping to the right in this situation. Doing otherwise is tantamount to a driver overtaking another by the right side, or by the shoulder, which we all know is a big no-no. Besides, a distracted driver might not take notice of the cyclist at all and crash into them. Whenever I see a cyclist next to my car at a stoplight or stop sign I make an effort to connect with them or engage them in some way. Sometimes I find that the cyclists are not making the least bit of effort to acknowledge me, and sometimes I find they going out of their way to inconvenience drivers, by proceeding exceedingly slow, then picking up speed when they reach the other side of the street being crossed, and I like to think I’m self-aware enough that this isn’t some kind of frustration-induced paranoia.
    In trying to work out a solution, I came up with the following plan: First: – make the right lane slightly wider than the left lane, to better allow for lane sharing and safe overpassing of cyclists. This would also favour a safer environment for motorcyclists, who can share the lane to the left of the cars on the right lane (lane splitting is legal in Brazil, and is much abused by reckless motorcyclists). Cyclists are still allowed on the entire surface of the roadway for the purposes of changing lanes in advance of left turns, but otherwise would be encouraged to keep right in order to allow for safe overtaking by faster vehicles, while still having enough room to avoid the opening doors of parked cars. Second: – approaching intersections, the last parking space before the turn, to the right of the roadbed (or to the left, in the case of left turns) would be eliminated, to preclude the possibility of conflict with parked cars. A 6 ft. wide slice of the (there wider) right-most lane (or left, where applicable) would be designated and clearly marked as exclusively for cyclists that are making that turn too. The marked turning-only lane would follow the curb into the corner, and the turning radius would allow for both drivers and cyclists to make that turn together, side by side, safely. If there is more than one cyclist waiting for the light to make that turn, they should wait single file. Cyclists wanting to go straight forward would have a designated waiting area directly in front of the first car on the right (or left) lane, before the cross walk, and they would wait there side by side. Maybe they could have a few seconds of a special green light for bikes to get a head start before the rest of the traffic, if that was deemed necessary. But the left lane would be unhindered by the slower traffic and I believe this arrangement would help prevent cyclists being cut-off by distracted drivers. Drivers arriving at the intersection, but intending to keep going forward, would be better served by keeping to the left, or at the most would have to wait for the cyclists in front of the right lane to disperse, which shouldn’t take that long. Maybe there could even be a special waiting area for motorcycles in front of both lanes (and in front of both cars and bicycles), and they could use the same head start of the advanced green light for bikes. Only thing is motorcyclists would only be allowed to filter forward from between the lanes, never between the right or left lane and their respective parking area. Does this sound like a safe solution for the experienced cyclists here? Also, I plan on proposing legislation that requires that street-faring bikes be required to have rear-view mirrors and positional lights, as well as making helmets mandatory for all bikes on the road (none of which are required here in Brazil). Children’s bikes, Leisure bicycles and mountain bikes that don’t go into traffic would be exempt. Offending cyclists could be fined or maybe have their bike apprehended. Does that seem too harsh? I worry about perhaps disenfranchising poorer cyclists with the cost of the equipment and the fines, but I think that society would be better served with the increase in safety and traffic flow. I would love to have some constructive criticism on this proposal, and perhaps some suggestions. Thanks!

  • The reality is this: It doesn’t matter one iota what anyone THINKS on the subject. The laws have been established and nobody has opened the door for you to reinterpret them for your own benefit. We can assume that these laws were instated after much deliberation between intelligent people (Don’t go there), and for whatever reason, they exist in their current form.

    In many places, bicycles on the sidewalk are breaking the law. They are considered a motorvehicle, even though logic tells us they are not. As a result, they are not only permitted, but required to travel on the road along with motorcycles and automobiles. It doesn’t matter if you agree with it or not, this is what the law dictates. If you are a law abiding citizen, you will respect this… otherwise, you shouldn’t be a hypocrite and have a problem with cyclists who do not respect the law either and ride wherever they darn well choose, however they choose.

    Just because some cyclists break the law does not mean all do, and the same goes for motorists.

    I’m a cyclist. I prefer a mountain bike with wider tires so that I’m not plagued with the stability issues that any avid rider of a thin tired bicycle knows all too well. I’m a skilled cyclist who can hop a curb and get off the road if I’m ever in the position where self-preservation calls for it. What I’m not comfortable with is, how close drivers come to me. What if my equipment fails or I’m having an off day and I end up tossed out into the road? I’m not comfortable with drivers who desire to reinterpret the law and tell me to ride on the sidewalk, when I’m told by the law that my place is on the road. I’m not a four season rider.. I’ve been riding for almost 40 years and will continue to do so.

    I’m also a pedestrian who knows what it’s like to have some inconsiderate cyclist almost mow me down. These types are a danger to themselves regardless of where they ride and if they keep on riding as they do when they are on the road, they will eventually get hit by a car and have only themselves to blame.

    I don’t have a car and don’t really want one. I’ve watched the way some people drive. Kudos to the ones who are respectful. If I ever do get a vehicle, I want a large truck so there’s more steel between me and them when someone is having a road rage day or too busy texting and not driving.

  • CycleRacer
    3 years ago

    I am a cyclist and can say that I am not a very slow moving vehicle. On the streets that I ride I am maybe going 10km/hr below the speed limit. Some cases when going downhill I am travelling possibly faster than the speed limit as I tend to pass cars on occasion.

    I find the statement that a bicycle especially a racing bicycle is a slow moving vehicle. I notice that even though I am going the speed limit or faster than that vehicles will still zoom by me.

    With that said I hope that some motorists will appreciate that yes bikes are moving fast some are faster than others. please treat bicycles as if they are another motor vehicle and leave enough space for them.

    I had some jerk honk at me on Thursday on my way home. Please do not do this as it often scares the cyclist and can cause an accident. There was plenty of room for him to pass me so I am not sure why he honked at me. I flipped him the bird and caught up to him. He then started yelling at me swearing etc. Then he zoomed off up ahead. I later caught up going downhill and he was stuck at a red light. The light turned green and I pulled up beside him and hocked a good loogie right on his front passenger window. I felt great after that hahahahaha.

    I am fine with all the motorist but when there are ignorant jerks out there who yell and honk at cyclists this is what will happen to you if you encounter me on the road ans act inappropriately. Drivers need to realize the size of their vehicles and remember you are supposed drive close to the center lane yellow line and not the SHOULDER. This will give you ample room to pass any cyclist.

  • Hallie
    3 years ago

    Before anyone, primarily “selfish motorist”s get too cemented in their opinions, I highly recommend commuting by car and then also commuting by bicycle. Try riding a bike around for at least one day out of your week for at least a few months, so you get good at it (yes, it is a skill, mostly because of selfish motorists who value their own convenience over human life/freedom of choice to ride whichever legal vehicle you’d like.)

    First, try riding strictly by all of the current laws. Do what you’re supposed to do. Use roads and bike lanes as advised (and always use helmets and lights!) See how that goes. I bet you’ll notice that, generally, things work out pretty well. The only time you have problems is when selfish motorists yield aggressively with you (which they hardly notice but it scares you half to death because they are a big hot hunk of metal and you are flesh and bone, and you can’t read their mind that they’re “gonna stop”) or generally break the law or try to intimidate you to live your life differently so that they don’t have to wait two seconds every once in a while. Or when absent minded motorists are texting and cut you off abruptly to turn right, or don’t use their turn signal so you CAN’T act accordingly and considerately to them- because you’re not a mind reader. I bet you’ll notice that while you always use your turn signal, it’s impossible to keep your arm up through the entire turn to make sure every car sees it clearly without crashing your bike, but you’ll realize, now that you’re slowed down, that giving bikes a little extra leeway in this regard only takes a 2-second hesitation on the part of a motorist to make sure they understand what you’re doing – whereas for you to have to wait for a motorist who didn’t give you appropriate signaling or warning for a move could very quickly put you in a LIFE-threatening situation.

    Then, try riding by the laws that YOU think should be in place, like riding on the sidewalk. Notice how many pedestrians make it impossible for you to get anywhere, ever. How you keep almost hurting them (and in turn hurting yourself because this would result in a crash.) Notice how cars pulling out of parking garages or turning into parking spaces almost kill you because you’re even HARDER to see in the 1-second gap that you’re then given, let alone among all the pedestrians and city trees. Notice that riding on the sidewalk is completely impractical if you want to ride a bike to get from point A to point B, rather than just a meandering, slow, unpredictable, uncontrollable, awkward, very dangerous, “joyride.”

    I can say that I ride my bike and drive my car equally. I really just alternate, depending on how much time I have, the weather, etc. Knowing what it takes to make a cyclist’s life a little easier vs. what it takes to accommodate an impatient car are VASTLY different things. I exert a very minimal amount of caution and patiences as a driver, and everything’s peachy. I don’t even lose any time! I exert A CONSTANT AND ENORMOUS AMOUNT OF CAUTION AND TROUBLE-SHOOTING AND PEOPLE WANTING TO KILL ME TO SAVE TIME as a cyclist and I STILL can’t seem to travel and still feel safe. And that’s in AUSTIN, a supposed “bike-friendly” city. I can’t even imagine what it’s like elsewhere.

    Bottom line:

    • you can’t tell people not to ride their bikes. It’s a life choice like everything else, and I’m sure you’d absolutely hate it if the roles were reversed. It’d feel like an infringement on your freedom right? Plus it’s fun and good for you, you should try it, you might learn some patience and humility.

    • riding on the sidewalk is even more dangerous (to even more people) than riding in the road, even WITH the selfish motorists, let alone if they learned some patience, compassion, and humanity and disappeared. Not to mention completely impractical as a means of getting anywhere.

    • with the first two things in place, it follows that you can’t tell a cyclist to get off the road. Or you can, but you’re just really, really wrong and thinking only for your own convenience rather than for the greater good of all, and everyone will just be embarrassed for your illogical and childish outbursts.

    That being said, as a cyclist I:

    • Follow all the laws unless I need to brake one to keep from having a potentially fatal accident (i.e. a selfish motorist is being a selfish motorist- every time.)

    • Assume I’m invisible to everyone, and that everyone is a selfish motorist, meaning that they’ll gladly risk killing me (ending my life) to shave a few seconds off their commute.

    • Wear lights and a helmet always.

    • Ask someone to roll down their window and say things like, “I suspect you’re turning here, but you’re not signaling. Was I correct in my assumption? Because it affects the way I’m going to proceed.” Or “would you mind riding slow along me until I get to that bike lane up there? This is a really busy road and when there’s a slew of cars passing me it increases my chances of someone not paying attention and killing me.” Usually the person happily complies, and the motorists behind them are only held up about 5 seconds.

    • Am courteous beyond what is required of me, when I can safely do so. If I’m in a right turning lane but going to go straight through a light, as it is legal for me to do (at least in Austin), I move over to let cars turn right, even though I’m not legally required to do so.

  • Denise
    3 years ago

    I just came across this article and the comments. My question is for all those that say bicycles should not be on roads. What is a cyclist to do when there are no sidewalks? I live in a rural area about 5 miles away from a small town, which has very few sidewalks. Are you saying that basically bicycling should be banned in these type areas?

  • I live in Europe, and here cycling is very common for many reasons, such as more intelligent urban development and better infrastructure planning than in USA. Also cars have higher operating costs than in USA. Gasoline, insurances, tax inspections etc, make cars very expensive luxury for the working middle class. Parking places in city centers are expensive and finding one takes more time than you save by going there by car (taking a bus is faster and costs less). Bicycles are faster in short 4 km distances than busses (and doesn’t cost anything!) Here we have separate cycling paths build few meters away from road and these paths often make short cuts go through forests, backyards, under and over car roads, therefore they save time. There are no traffic lights on bicycle paths, and that saves even more time.

    Also in Europe the traffic culture is more friendly towards ALL road users, especially in urban northern central europe.

    Here we have trafic laws that leave nothing to speculation about bicycling. Bicycles CAN drive with traffic but as I mentioned before it is more practical to use our extensive bicycle pathway networks. In city centers bike lines doesn’t cover every street, meaning that one have cycle on street with cars. This is NOT a problem at all as the speed limit in city is low and car rarely can reach that speed because trafic light stops, and intersections with right of way rules. A healthy bicyclist CAN keep up with the pace of traffic, and therefore he can drive in the middle of car lane if he wants (and often does). Those who are slower, they cycle on right side. Cars give them space when overtaking them. Ofcource sometimes there are asshole car drivers who are in such a hurry that they drive like crazy, only stop at next trafic light where the cyclist can pass him and all the cars waiting in line…

    Thats all, sorry I got carried away and typed a small essay here!

  • Kai, in the area i live, FL, USA, cycling is common and insults are very rarely traded. I think that everyone here has a valid point. I agree with Denise, what happens when there are no sidewalks? I completely agree with Hallie. I just wish I had something to add…..Oh! the reason im even looking at this is for Project Citizen! Basically, you find a problem in your community and try to make a policy to fix it. One policy is chosen each year.Heres the website if your interested

    http://new.civiced.org/programs/project-citizen

    Kay! cya!

  • As a motorist, a cyclist, and a pedestrian, some of the comments here would make me believe I need to be arguing with myself over this issue. Many of the motorists’ implications here are that cyclists have “their” trails, so stay off of “our” roads. (You’re in good company. Many pedestrians sharing those trails, who also don’t understand the rules & courtesies of them, express those same feelings too.) Strange how I can belong to all 3 categories, interacting with any of the others, and not take offense to someone being in my way, being killed, breaking laws, etc. WHEN I can trust that all parties are interacting with safety and courtesy in mind – rather than self-ordained interests.

    Every day when I climb into my car, within minutes, I deal with drivers breaking laws (speeding, rolling through stop signs or not knowing/practicing the order of 4-way traffic, not using their blinkers, running traffic lights, etc.), so I know to have an AWARENESS of these possibilities and to remain ALERT while operating my vehicle. Also, as a responsible motorist, I understand that the law places cyclists with their backs to me (riding on the same side of the road, where they do not have the advantage of seeing my approach as I overcome them). Because I have the more “dangerous” vehicle, I have an additional RESPONSIBILITY to keep them protected. (I also recognize that I have the ability to accelerate and safely pass them, once my visibility and traffic conditions allow for it – usually within seconds of any slower approach I made).

    Let’s face it. All the comments concerning the cyclists’ “safety” as a reason for them to not be allowed on the road are egocentric statements trying to be disguised as concern. (I at least appreciate the honesty in disdain of the young man who recently purposely blew his diesel smoke all over me while I was cycling, if I appreciate nothing else about his lack of concern for my health or safety – or our environment.) If you’re in such a hurry that a cyclist (or a group of cyclists) who is holding you up for several seconds is going to ruin your schedule or your day, it may be time to reassess your priorities (or the time you’ve allotted yourself to get somewhere). And here’s an idea for you – go for a bike ride. Being out in nature & your increase in seratonin, along with viewing the situation through a different set of lenses, may do you a world of good.

    Gray sand peas! -j

  • Becoming a cyclist made me a MUCH better motorist. I mean by a HUGE amount.

    I, of course, did not realize that this could/would be the case before I started cycling. It was outside of my perception and worldview… I was already an “expert” motorist, or so I thought. The truth is that I was ignorant of the issues of cyclists, ignorant of common courtesies between cyclists and motorists, AND ignorant of the laws regarding cycling (though I never questioned the validity of their being on the road).

    Whenever I see debates between cyclists and motorists, it is almost always the case that the majority of people arguing from the motorist point of view are absolutely ignorant of the subject, yet very emotionally invested it it. Motorists take note: the definition of ignorant is “lacking knowledge or awareness in general”. I’m not calling you stupid. One can be ignorant without being stupid.

    However, ignorant and arrogant motorists are even more frustrating to cyclists than actual stupid people! 🙂
    But these types of motorists are so arrogant, they will not realize how ignorant they are. Unless they start riding a bike.

    I was lucky enough to become a cyclist, and it made me such a better motorist, even though I was never as bad as some of the assholes out there and some of the ignorant posters above (saying cyclists should be on the sidewalk, lol, or saying that cyclists tend to travel 8 mph, lol).

  • Amateur
    2 years ago

    Hi, I am an amateur road cyclist. I would like to be more informed about laws and tips for bicyclists before putting myself in the dangerous situation I do every day. Can we figure out how to educate amateur bikers before they put themselves in danger? I am a licensed driver as well, and I feel I know enough to be a safe motorist around cyclists, but not the other way around.

    Also, bikers are making the responsible choice by exercising their bodies and saving the environment at the same time, there is no reason they should get second best. Until we have the resources to seperate cyclists and motorists on ALL roads with equal standards, we will just have to co-exist.

  • Gene Tyler
    2 years ago

    I concur that cyclists have the “right” as defined herein to be on the road unless prohibited, such as some freeways and toll roads.

    I like to ride. Me and my daughter often ride in my and adjoining neighborhoods. These are streets that have a 30 mile an hour speed limit which because most people have families are often obeyed. For the record, we also obey the rules of the road.

    While bicyclists have a right to drive on a 55 mile an hour road; it is still very disconcerting to me as a driver to come up on a group of bicyclists where the speed differential may be as much as 40 mph. So to me, is not whether you have the right; it’s whether it’s smart to do so.

    I am neither arrogant (although it sounds sort of arrogant to say that) nor stupid, or at least I hope not. I would never let my kids ride on a 55 mile an hour street; my parents sure let me do so when I was growing up!

  • Chad B.
    11 months ago

    Most of my 25 mile commute to work is on interstate highways where bicycles are not allowed, but the last few miles right before I get to work are popular for cyclists. I usually see one or two people out biking each day, and we generally get along fine. They are usually very aware and I’m a pretty defensive driver.

    However, the ones who run red lights and otherwise break traffic rules really annoy me. There are a lot of blind curves and hills ending in traffic lights around where I work, and I’m afraid that I’m going to run a cyclist over one day because he thought he could run a red light.

  • James Wagner
    10 months ago

    Just wanted point out:
    (1) Motorists are permitted to drive only as fast as their ability to see ahead (and stop if necessary) allows them
    (2) Motorists are required to avoid hitting anything.

    These are requirements for a person to drive, so making arguments that cyclists shouldn’t be on the road because drivers are too dangerous just points back to problems with (1) and (2).

  • Interestingly, and importantly to all road users, cars do NOT stop more slowly than bicycles. The actual braking rate of a standard passenger car or SUV is significantly higher than a road bicycle can generate. This is why it is extremely dangerous for cars to turn across or enter a cyclist’s path to make a turn. A turning car has to decelerate to make their turn, the cyclist they have just pulled in front of cannot decelerate even nearly as quickly. The result is bicycles getting trapped inside the turning radius of a motor vehicle, or slamming into the rear of a car ahead of them. In such situations, police (who also don’t understand these dynamics) often end up blaming the cyclist for ‘hitting the car.’

  • good lord
    7 months ago

    Be aware of terrible drivers. There are a lot of them. Some even posting in these here forums.

    As someone who rides pretty quickly, most of these arguments don’t apply to me as I usually do maintain 25-35 mph in areas where the speed limit is 25-35 mph. I avoid the roads that don’t have wide shoulders, or higher speed limits knowing that I might be in danger due to inattentive drivers.

    Bad drivers are everywhere, most of them will see you, but eventually one won’t. Be cautious, the law may protect you legally but you still have to watch out for the idiots.

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