Safety is a two-way street for bicyclists and motorists

bicyclistsIf you’re riding a bicycle for recreation or, increasingly, commuting, beware of motorists. And if you’re a motorist, beware of bicyclists.

This is the only way to be sure everyone is as safe as possible on our roads.

It’s important because the number of Americans who bike to work increased almost 61 percent in 2012, the last data available from the U.S. Census Bureau, the largest percentage of any commuting style.

Unfortunately, some bicyclists don’t realize, or choose to ignore, that they are subject to the same traffic laws as drivers when they are riding on public roads – and some drivers don’t realize, or choose to ignore, the rights of bicyclists to use our roads for recreation and commuting.

As someone who has ridden tens of thousands of miles on public roads, I know these things are true.

It’s easy for bicyclists to blame motorists for accidents, but it’s best for bicyclists to remember that they are harder to see for motorists than other four-wheeled vehicles (or larger) – and in a collision between a bike and car, truck or bus, the bigger vehicle almost invariably wins. It’s easy for motorists to curse bicyclists, but it’s best they think first about what a multi-ton vehicle can do to a human body.

“Cyclists are sons, daughters, mothers and fathers,” says AAA. “By showing common courtesy and respect on the road, we can ensure the two-way street is a safe street for all.”

But that right to the road comes with responsibilities, according to AAA. “Cyclists must yield to pedestrians, stop for stop signs and travel with the flow of traffic. It’s best to remember that if you are riding a bicycle, then by law, you are considered a vehicle on the road.”

One of the greatest irritants to motorists is seeing bicyclists flouting traffic laws – riding the wrong way on public streets, riding on sidewalks, running stop signs or stoplights, etc.

Here are some additional facts from the Pedestrian and Bicycle Information Center:

  • About two bicyclists die from an estimated 130 accidents daily in the United States, and about one-third reportedly were collisions with motor vehicles.
  • But research into hospital records “shows that only a fraction of bicycle crashes causing injury are ever recorded by the police – possibly as low as 10 percent.”
  • Bicyclists are over-represented in crash data at about two percent of fatalities despite being only one percent of all vehicle trips in the United States.

Several videos on sharing the road and bicycle safety and a summary about how to avoid common vehicle-bicycle accidents are available online at AAA Exchange. also provides some “important lessons” on “How to Not Get Hit by Cars” online.

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