Bicyclists and Motorists Can Safely Co-Exist

By David Thomas  on September 3, 2013

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By Alex Chudler

As schools of every level ramp back up this fall, it's important to be on the lookout for kids on bikes — especially since biking continues to gain popularity. Many cities across the country are attempting to become more bike-friendly every year. Hundreds of miles of bike lanes, lit paths, indoor bike parking, free bike lights and bike sharing systems are being implemented to improve the bicycling community.

In the U.S., 31 cities and 32 universities have active bike sharing systems, which allow users to rent and share bicycles for a short period of time. Ten states have established U.S. Bicycle Routes covering 5,616 miles, which are officially designated by connecting two or more states, a state and an international border or other U.S. Bicycle Routes.

With all the additional cyclists on the road, drivers must take extra care to practice safety. Drivers and bicyclists who know the rules of the road can help keep everyone safe. Here are a few tips to keep in mind:

Rules for Riders

Helmets: According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, the number of cyclist deaths has been increasing every year since 2002, and most are from head injuries. "A helmet is the single most effective way to prevent head injury resulting from a bicycle crash," the agency said in a statement. According to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, no state has a universal law for helmet use, but wearing one is highly encouraged.

Rules of the road: Bicyclists are considered vehicle operators and must obey the same traffic signs, signals and lane markers as any other vehicle. They must ride on the road with traffic, signal turns, stop at red lights and ride undistracted. Violating these in certain cities or states can result in a fine from the police. Behaving in a predictable way also keeps riders safe.

Be conspicuous: To protect themselves from injury, bikers need to alert drivers to their presence. They should wear bright or reflective clothing at all times, and use a front headlight and red rear reflective light at night. These are required in some places.

Rules for Drivers

Passing: When passing a bicyclist, give it at least 3 feet of space. Remember that your car is many times larger and stronger than a bike. Being passed can be a scary experience, so leave enough space to make it pleasant for both parties.

Opening doors: If you're in a place where there's a possibility of a biker, look around before you open the car door. A cyclist going full speed could be seriously hurt by hitting a stationary object that suddenly appears, and the driver could be held responsible.

Share the road: Bike riders are considered vehicle operators too, and must follow the same rules of the road as cars. You must share the road with them, so be polite and show the same courtesy you would to other car drivers. Hitting a bicyclist causes harm to them and legal fees for you. Stay safe and make everyone's ride a great experience.

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Managing Editor David Thomas has a thing for wagons and owns a 2010 Subaru Outback and a 2005 Volkswagen Passat wagon.  Email David