Hate to break it to you, drivers, but you don't own the roads. The streets aren't just for driving cars, and it is part of your responsibility as a driver to share the road with cyclists, runners, skateboarders and any pedestrians who happen to be using the public roadways. 

Biking to work increased 60% over the past decade, which means there are more cyclists on the roads now than ever before. This is especially true in cities, where you'll see more bike lanes and bike-sharing systems. Regardless of whether your city has the additional infrastructure to support cycling commuters, drivers need to share the road with them and follow the law. 

Whether you love cyclists because they result in fewer cars on the road during your commute or are frustrated by them for slowing you down, you are required to get along with them. Let us break down the often contentious relationship to find some middle ground.

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Drivers vs. Cyclists

It’s been a longstanding feud for years and the problem is that the bad experiences are the ones that stand out. The few motorists that act disrespectful, the few bikers choosing to ride in the middle of the road—those are the instances everyone remembers. A biker cuts a car off or a driver passes with mere inches to spare, and it only takes seconds for the situation to escalate and for accusations to be launched.

Of course, the lack of infrastructure doesn’t always help either. Some cities were not originally built for cars; forget about bike lanes.

As more and more people turn to cycling to save money, commute, go green and stay active, more collisions are occurring. The most recent NHTSA research states that over 50,000 bikers are injured in crashes each year.

In the end, both drivers and cyclists do have something in common—aren’t we all just trying to get where we need to go? Everyone is responsible for keeping the roads safe and everyone plans to arrive in one piece. Of course, in order for that to happen, both motorists and bikers need to cooperate. Here’s how drivers can do their part.

cycling driving sharing road safety

Know the Laws:

Do you know if your state has any road sharing laws? There are 26 states that currently have safety zone laws for cars and bicyclists. These laws require a minimum of 3 feet passing distance when a vehicle passes a bike on the road. Most other states have general safe-passing laws. Failure to comply with these laws can lead to fines in the best case, and dangerous collisions in the worst. Though you’re unlikely to see a cop with a measuring stick next to every biker on the road, you will likely be charged in the case of an accident.

States are constantly updating legal framework to keep the roads safe. Be sure to stay up to date on new policies to avoid a violation that could increase your car insurance rate.

Tips for Coexistence:

  • Look for Cyclists When Making Turns

Always look for bikes when making turns. This is especially important in areas with more populated bike lanes and intersections.

  • Pass Only When You Can See What’s Ahead

Be patient. Don’t pass cyclists when driving on a curvy road. Remember that 3-foot passing law? Wait a minute until you can see what is ahead, and then pass when the road is clear.

  • Look Before Opening Your Car Door

After parallel parking or pulling over, be sure to look out your window and side view mirror before swinging open the car door. It’s difficult for cyclists to see if anyone is in the vehicle as they approach and they may bike by at an inopportune moment, which can result in serious injuries and fatalities.

  • Be Predictable

Use your turn signals and drive in a foreseeable manner. Try to anticipate what other drivers and bikers may do so everyone can remain safe.

Sharing the road goes both ways. Cyclists also need to bike predictably with hand signals and follow the rules of the road to help create a safe environment. In future years, technology will hopefully prevent such collisions through the use of sensors, detectors and crash avoidance systems.

Stop the polarization! Drivers and riders can be great friends. Follow the laws and be courteous when biking and driving so that we can work towards road travel that is not only safe, but also free of frustration for all.

Photo credits: Richard Masoner, sdbikecoalition