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Driving Etiquette: Don’t Be a Jerk to Bicyclists

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Bicyclist on the Road

Photo: Unsplash

A recent hit-and-run video (see below) has sparked some discussion about bicyclists on the roadways. While cars and trucks may dominate the streets, they’re not the only ones on the road. Bicyclists use the roads too. The majority of city and suburban streets do not have bicycle lanes, and bicyclists are not allowed to ride on the sidewalks. With only helmets to protect them and exposed bodies, bike riders are much more at risk for injury during a collision than those behind the wheel of a car. For that reason, it’s important that drivers look out for bicyclists and follow proper etiquette when sharing the road. Here are a few rules to follow when sharing the road with a bicyclist.

Give them space

It’s okay to pass a bicyclist when the coast is clear (and passing is legal). But keep in mind the amount of space you are giving them. Your vehicle is much larger than theirs and creates a lot of wind. If you pass too close to them, not only will you terrify the bicyclist, but you may cause a sudden wind gust that could unsteady them on the road. They could fall of their bike and potentially be injured by the fall or another car barreling down the road.

As mentioned above, a recent helmet-cam video went viral on Facebook, showing a bicyclist being struck by a passing vehicle. The vehicle fled the scene:

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Don’t hold down the horn

Just because they’re in your way and you’re ticked off about it doesn’t mean you should lay on your horn. You’re inside your car, likely with the windows rolled up; the outside noises you hear are muffled. Theirs aren’t. If you lay on your horn, you’re likely to startle them and cause the bicyclist to lose their balance. At the same time, don’t assume the bicyclist hears you coming up behind them. Your car engine might not be as loud as you think (sorry to burst your bubble) and the wind is probably loud in their ears.

Get off their back

If you’re tailgating a cyclist, you’re practically asking for trouble. Not only are you going to completely stress out and terrify the cyclist, but you’re putting yourself at risk of plowing them down in the case of a sudden stop. A cyclist is far more likely to sustain serious injuries in a “fender-bender” than another car. Don’t tailgate them (or any other vehicle, for that matter).

Keep an eye out

Bicyclists often face unexpected obstacles while on the roadways. Whether they are avoiding trash on the side of the road or being “doored” by a parked vehicle, it’s possible they will shift closer to the middle of the lane. Be prepared for that.

Watch for them at night

Things get even trickier at night. While bicyclists are often required to have some sort of reflective gear and/or lights on their bicycle, it doesn’t always happen that way. When you’re driving at night, keep an eye out for bicyclists in the dark or around difficult-to-see corners. You could save a life.

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Sharing the roadways with bicyclists can be frustrating when you’re in a rush to get where you need to be. But being on time to work is not worth risking someone’s life. Be respectful of bicyclists. They have every right to be on the road, just like you.