Most motorists respect cyclists on public roads, but there are still ways to help minimize the chance that you are involved in an accident with a cyclist. Follow these tips to safely coexist with your bicycle-riding neighbor.
Acknowledge Bicyclist Vulnerability – Compare the weight of a car (2 tons or 4,000 lbs on average) and a bicycle (20 lbs). The car weighs 200 times more than the bicycle. Tim Blumenthal, with the bicycle advocacy group People for Bikes states, “In any collision, any physical interaction between a car and bike, the bike always loses.”
Know Bicyclists Rights – In Alabama bicyclists in the roadway are considered vehicles with the same rights and responsibilities as cars. The National Highway Transportation Safety Administration (NHTSA) writes, “Yield to bicyclists as you would motorists and do not underestimate their speed.”
Maintain a Positive Attitude – Motorists can tend to think of cyclists as in the way. Drivers who get impatient with bicyclists tend to perceive riders as objects instead of humanizing them. Instead, imagine that rider as your friend or neighbor before you become irritated.
Yield if in Doubt – as slow as cyclists can seem, a bike can easily reach speeds of 15-25 mph. After a collision with a bicycle the driver often says he didn’t realize the cyclist was going so fast. If in doubt, always YIELD.
Give Cyclists 3 Feet – Alabama law dictates “For purposes of a vehicle overtaking and passing a bicycle, a safe distance shall mean not less than three feet.” It’s best to pass slowly and smoothly, because the tendency to suddenly speed up to pass can be quite unnerving for the cyclist.
Look Around – Many drivers who have hit cyclists say the same sobering thing: “I never saw him before I hit him.” Being aware of what is on the road, expected and unexpected, will reduce the use of this harrowing phrase.
Accepting Bicycles – Bicycles are here to stay. Coincidentally, Montevallo and bicycles are both celebrating their bicentennial this year. It’s time to make peace with them, for everyone’s safety.
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