Bicyclists are perhaps the most vulnerable vehicles on the road. The accident rate for bicycles is lower than for other vehicles because they move slower. But, when there is an accident involving a bicyclist, he or she is at a greater risk for injury and death. As drivers, it is important to watch out for two-wheeled vehicles – they are harder to see, and their occupants are not encased in a protective layer of glass and steel.
Being myself a bicyclist, however, I hear the question often, “What about the bicyclists we see riding erratically, unsafely, and/or illegally?”
Sadly, the question has some merit and deserves a look. In Greensboro recently, a bicyclist was severely injured when she failed to yield at a stop sign and t-boned an SUV:
Stop signs and traffic signals apply to bicyclists too! Many bicyclists think that they can treat Stop signs as Yield, and red lights as Stop signs. This idea may be reasonable in some situations, but any vehicle, bicycle included, ignores stop signs and traffic signals at its peril.
Another thing we see often in Greensboro is bicycles on sidewalks where they shouldn’t necessarily be. To an inexperienced cyclist, the sidewalk can seem like a safer place to ride than the roadway. This is usually not the case!! Although speeds are lower on the sidewalk, there are many additional hazards riding there, and not just for the bike. Riding on the sidewalk, first and foremost, endangers the pedestrians who have a right to be there. Also, bicyclists using the sidewalk are often not aware when a crosswalk approaches, that a car or truck making a turn might contest the roadway, with disastrous results for the bicyclist.
The roadway is usually the safest place to ride. Yes, it can be scary for riders who are not familiar with the exercise – the cars are so much closer! Drivers, however, are more likely to see a bicycle on the roadway than one on the sidewalk or the shoulder. Don’t think that bicycles are required to ride near the side of the road – in most places, the law requires bicycles to ride as far to the right as is practicable, not as far right as possible. Plus, being seen on the roadway as a bicyclist, and obeying the laws of the road, drivers will be able to predict what the bicycle will do, and thereby avoid running it over.
The NC Department of Transportation site provides resources on safe riding: Streetwise Cycling — A Guide to Safe Bicycling in North Carolina
For more I’ve written recently on this topic, have a look at: