We’ve been talking to bicyclists in nearly all of these posts but I think it’s important to draw some attention to motorists. Who am I talking about? All of us! Let’s be realistic, almost all of us drive or ride in cars at some point. What are the rules about passing bikes when driving?
I love bikes. In my opinion (and the law’s opinion), I think that bikes deserve a space on the road just like all other modes of transportation. It’s important to make sure that motorists know that bikes are allowed on any roadway unless otherwise stated (e.g. the interstate system). When passing a bicyclist in a car, make sure that you give them at least three feet. Yes, there is a Kansas law (HB 2192) stating that you have to give bikes at least that much room. Bikes can also stop-and-go at red lights if the light doesn’t recognize them. All of this is state law and is legislation for a reason – to keep everyone safe on the road.
Let’s try a little exercise — put yourself into someone else’s shoes, or seat since we’re talking about all things sitting. When you’re biking, life and the world around you moves a little slower. You have more time to react to something because you’re not going as fast. It’s easy to swerve out of the way of that pothole quickly because your sweet ride is so responsive. What does that look like from a driver’s perspective? Now, imagine you’re driving a car and you see said bicyclist swerve two feet into the drive lane as you’re getting ready to pass the bicyclist. You can’t see the six-inch pothole. All you know is that this bicyclist is swerving like a crazy person. As a motorist, you instantly think, “Dumb biker. What are you thinking?” As a bicyclist, you think, “Why is this car passing me with so little room? Move over!” Of course, both situations are followed by expletives to emphasize how each person feels.
In this situation, is either the biker or motorist in the wrong? In my opinion, I don’t think either party is “wrong.” I wish the driver would give more than three feet to the bicyclist but in certain situations three feet is enough. Additionally, I wish the bicyclist would slowly merge with traffic to avoid the pothole but sometimes stuff sneaks up on you because you’re having so much fun on your bike that you forget to look down.
What do we need to know? For starters, drivers should:
- Give bikes enough room when passing and to make sure you can get around them with enough time.
- NOT pass at an intersection.
- NOT pass and then turn immediately right.
- Slow down!
- Use common sense! After all, bicyclists don’t have a 5-star crash rating.
As a bicyclist, we should:
- Pay attention! We have to pay more attention than when driving a car.
- Know where the cars are. If you’re going to merge with traffic, try to do it behind a car instead of having someone slam on the brakes.
- Look at the road ahead for obstacles and make small changes to correct. Merge early!
- When turning left, merge with traffic early and signal so drivers know where you’re going.
- Stay on the road. Using sidewalks is much more dangerous than riding with traffic.
All bicyclists have been put in a situation where drivers behave poorly but it’s important to remember some perspective. Drivers have all be in a situation where a bicyclist has behaved poorly. Instead of getting angry and escalating the situation with the wave of a hand gesture, perhaps we should relax and smile. After all, nothing says, “you were SO in the right of way!” better than a smile and a shake of the head.
I’m curious to get your input. How do you address issues between motorists and bicyclists? Is it a constantly reoccurring problem that doesn’t have an easy answer? What do you think should be done?