You’re Not Alone: How to Share the Road with Cyclists
Six hundred and eighteen individuals were killed in bicycle accidents involving automobiles in 2010 according to the Nation Highway Traffic Safety Administration, www.nhtsa.gov. Obviously, injuring or killing a cyclist while driving should be a major concern for all motorists. Regardless of if you live in the city, suburbs, or in rural areas, cyclists are using the same roads that you are, and you must be aware of this danger as you drive.
There are several important steps that automobile drivers can take to lessen their chances of causing or being involved in an accident with a bicycle. The first and most important step is to understand that bicyclists are entitled to the roadways that cars use. Share the road.
Drivers can prevent accidents involving bicycles by becoming aware of particular situations in which accidents are more likely to occur. Think about the following scenarios and identify where they might take place on your normal routes:
Situations in Which Bicycle Accidents Are Most Likely to Occur
Turning left or right onto another roadway
This is the most common scenario in which accidents involving bicycles occur. A driver is unaware of the advance of a cyclist on the roadway he or she is about to turn onto. In this case, the car either turns left and hits the cyclist or the cyclist is unable to reduce his or her speed and slams into the car. As the driver of an automobile, you can reduce your chance of being involved in a wreck with a cyclist at this type of scenario by coming to a complete stop at every stop sign and looking both ways for cyclists before proceeding.
Opening your door while parallel parked
This scenario is often viewed comically but it is really no joke. Running into your opened car door can cause a cyclist to flip off of their bicycle and suffer serious injuries, not to mention leave them lying in a busy roadway. When you parallel park your vehicle against a curb, make sure that you look for cyclists approaching from behind before you open your door to exit. Cyclists often steer towards the right edge of their lanes, especially on busy roadways. This leaves them vulnerable to car doors being slung open in haste by unaware drivers. Check your rearview and side mirrors for cyclists and make sure that you open your car door slowly so that riders have time to react.
Cyclists are allowed to use pedestrian crosswalks and often do, particularly in areas with heavy traffic. Because cyclists travel significantly faster than pedestrians on foot, drivers often do not see bicycles on crosswalks until it is too late. Watch out for the yellow advisory signs and white pavement stripes of a crosswalk. Be especially watchful for bicycles using a crosswalk when you turn onto another roadway.
Bicyclists riding against traffic
This situation occurs when a vehicle turns onto a one-way street. Some cyclists feel that it is safer for them to drive against the flow of traffic because they can see approaching vehicles in front of them. As you turn onto a one-way road, do not fail to look both directions for oncoming traffic. While vehicle traffic may only be approaching from one direction, cyclists might be travelling either way.
Turning right at red lights
You stop at a red light while in the far right lane. You wait for traffic to clear or the light to turn green then proceed to turn right. Unbeknownst to you, a cyclist who was also waiting to proceed through the intersection was positioned on the right side of your vehicle. This can be a very dangerous situation for drivers and cyclists as the drive may steer into the bicycle as he or she turns. You can often miss cyclists at intersections because they are in your blind spot. Before turning right at a red light, make sure that no bicycles are approaching the intersection on your right.
Simply not seeing
There are many situations in which automobile drivers simply do not see cyclists on the road. Being unaware of a cyclist can cause a variety of collisions, from rear-ending a bicycle from behind to causing a cyclist to slam into the back of your vehicle when you stop too suddenly. Some cyclists, especially those who do not often ride their bicycles on roadways, do not wear the recommended bright, reflective clothing or do not follow accepted cyclist traffic guidelines.
It is the responsibility of the driver to be aware of cyclists on the road and to do everything in his or her power to prevent accidents involving bicycle riders. Whether you live in a metropolitan area and are used to sharing the road or in a desolate rural area that is a popular scenic route for cyclists, you must make sure that your driving does not jeopardize the safety of those who choose to travel by bike. If you are involved in an accident with a cyclist, immediately call emergency services and care for the injured rider until they arrive. That being said, driver awareness is a powerful preventive force against bicycle accidents on roadways.
Andrei Zakhareuski is the founder of Driving-Tests.org. He has been writing for beginner US drivers for several years.
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