Pedal Parenting: Road Safety

Bikes and cars can exist together on roads, but it does take some basic knowledge to do so safely.

The most important thing someone riding a bike can do to keep safe is to be as predictable as possible. What this means is that the way you function on the road should be what a driver would expect. When you’re on the road, consider yourself a vehicle. Following the rules of the road are important, and so is being very clear about your decisions (change of direction, general movement, etc) well in advance of your actions. This is why a method of signaling has been developed, which replaces the turn signals in our car with arm motions.

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More tips for bicyclists:

  • Remember, you’re still a vehicle. You still need to obey stop lights and street signs. Other rules of driving also pertain to you, such as yielding to pedestrians.
  • Be predictable. Following the same laws as drivers will make it easier for others on the road to understand what you’re doing and where you’re going. Using hand signals lets people around you know what your next move is going to be.
  • Stay on the defensive. There is no pleasant way to say it, but many drivers are not looking for bikers. So it’s key to stay out of dangerous blind spots.

Safety when you’re driving a car

Whenever I have read articles about keeping bicyclists safe, the information presented is almost always focused on what the cyclist should do. However, as drivers, we can do so much to keep bicyclists safe. The most obvious things a driver should do when sharing the road with a bicycle are slow down, stay attentive, and give them as much extra space as possible. Having a little extra patience helps as well. More bike infrastructure is being built. Roads will be lined with more protected bike lanes, which have built in separators between cars and bikes, but until then the roads will need to be shared.

More tips for drivers:

  • Look out for cyclists, especially when turning – make eye contact if possible so they know you’ve seen them.
  • Use your indicators – signal your intentions so that cyclists can react.
  • Do not pass bicyclists if you will be making a right turn immediately afterward.
  • Don’t blast your horn when approaching a bicyclist, you could startle them and cause an accident.
  • Reduce your speed when passing cyclists, especially if the roadway is narrow.
  • Before opening your car door, look for bicyclists who may be approaching.
  • Allow three feet of passing space between the right side of your vehicle and a bicyclist.

Someday bikes and cars will be able to exist together without conflict, but until that day, we all need to be aware of our safety. When you’re in a car, look out for the little guy and do whatever you can to keep a bicyclist safe. When riding a bike, remember that there are drivers who feel uncomfortable sharing the road with you. Do what you can to keep yourself safe and to be as predictable as possible. No one wants to cause or be in a crash. Stay safe out there!

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