Drivers and cyclists: If there’s ever been an oil-and-water combination, this is it. We both use roads; we’d both prefer to do so without the other in the way. But the juxtaposition puts cyclists in far greater peril than drivers. For that reason, nearly every rider would like non-pedaling motorists to know how vulnerable they are. And, yes, riders also need to take responsibility for their own safety, but a few simple tips for drivers will make the roads safer for everyone.
Slow Passing Saves Lives
A study in the UK showed that a pedestrian is eight times more likely to be killed by a car when struck at 30 mph than at 20 mph. The obvious implication is that a cyclist hit by a car has a much greater chance of survival if that vehicle is passing at a cautious speed. Pass efficiently, at perhaps 25 to 30 mph, if the rider is going 15 mph.
Give A Wide Birth
When going around a cyclist make sure to give a wide birth and the cars behind you will usually follow your example, as always make sure there is no oncoming traffic!
The Longest Yard
More than fifteen states have settled on 3 feet as the motorist’s minimum legal distance for safely passing cyclists. Gary Brustin, a California cycling attorney, is a huge proponent of the rule, saying it gives drivers the clear, workable guideline they need. “The unsafe, too-close pass easily turns into a rear-end accident, the number one cause of cycling fatalities we see here,” he says. He adds that if your car is brushing past cyclists with only a foot to spare, the slightest leftward move by the cyclist can mean a collision. You can learn more about efforts to pass similar laws at completestreets.org and 3feetplease.com.
Car crashes linked to cell-phone use have led 20 states to ban driver texting, and six currently require hands-free devices for calls. But even with a handsfree device, driving and talking on the phone makes you dangerous to everyone on the road. In one study, psychologists at the Center for Cognitive Brain Imaging at Carnegie Mellon University, in Pittsburgh, had subjects “drive” simulators while responding to spoken questions. Subjects strayed from their lanes, an obvious hazard to cyclists, and their brains (scanned by a magnetic-resonance imaging machine) showed a 37 percent drop in activity in the parietal lobe, the region tied to driving.
These are just a few tips to sharing the road, check back for more later and remember the roads aren’t just for cars!
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