The Rules of the Road, Bikes and Cars

Bikes are out on the road again! Its spring and the roads are beautiful.  Cyclists have pumped up their tires and dusted off their helmets and taken to the roads.  For drivers it means more to watch out for on the roads.

The reality is that both drivers and cyclists have an important part to play in keeping each other safe!  As a driver and a cyclist I see challenges and responsibilities on both sides!

We ride as a family, with kids on the back of our tandems.  We have had great experiences with our kids, touring.  We ride defensively, always looking at what other vehicles are doing and trying to anticipate what they might do to keep us safe.  We use hand signals, talk to each other and try to be predictable.  We all wear helmets because head injuries happen to adults just like kids.

As a cyclist I believe in riding predictably, communicating my intentions as clearly as possible.  I ride inside the white line whenever possible!  But on the narrow country roads of New Jersey, it is not always possible.  Not all roads here have shoulders that can accommodate a bike.  It means that cars have to pass with caution.  As a driver, it’s important to wait for the right time to pass a cyclist.  Wait until you have a clear view of oncoming traffic and give the cyclist room. Legally in many states cyclists can ride two abreast, but when there is traffic on back country roads it puts the car in danger and the cyclist when riders refuse to move to single file.  I know that I have been frustrated with side by side riders on curvy back country roads.  I get frustrated that other cyclists ride stupidly and end up putting us all in danger.

Cyclists need to be clear what they are doing using hand signals and riding predictably.

At the same time, I have been out riding and as I approached a street I have had drivers look at me and then cut me off. Bikes follow the same rules of the road that cars do and that means that cars have to yield the right of way to a bike just as they would a car. Cars making left turns do not typically cut oncoming traffic off.  This remains true if the oncoming traffic is a bike.

I know as both a driver and a cyclist I want to be safe.  I want my children safe in either situation.  I also know that the lifelong impact of hitting a cyclist will be devastating.

After cycling across the country from Maine to Oregon, I got home and was driving on the highway.  I became frustrated when I got stuck behind a truck doing 50 instead of 65.  In my frustration,  I remembered that I had just spent 90 days traveling an average of 15 miles per hour, and that there really wasn’t any where I had to be quickly.  That lesson stays with me.  It is more important to arrive safely than to rush and not arrive!

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