In an ideal world, the cyclist and the driver would pay attention to their surroundings and always look our for each other. However, the fact is, cyclists are far fewer than motorists. They are also more vulnerable and suffer more serious injuries if a car hits them. For this reason, cyclists need to think carefully and try to anticipate how a car will respond. However, some states have passed legislation to make it safer for cyclists and to put more of the responsibility on the driver.
The 3-foot law basically states that a motorist has to give cyclists at least 3 feet of room. If they don’t, the motorist can be cited for a violation. The reality of this law is that it is hard to enforce and police officers often ignore violations if the cyclist isn’t put in real danger. Cyclists feel that the law is prudent and should greatly reduce the number of accidents that occur.
The advantage of passing similar laws is that drivers begin to notice cyclists and give them the space they need. Often, motorists simply don’t realize that a cyclist needs the extra space. The disadvantage is that in some narrow areas, this also poses an additional threat to the motorist, especially if they are forced to go over a double-yellow line into oncoming traffic to adhere to the law. To date, there is no evidence that gives any credence to these fears. Some states also mandate extra space for faster speeds.
Anyone who has ridden a bicycle on a busy street knows how the situation can become quite precarious. Bicycle-friendly communities attempt to make it safer for cyclists by designating bike routes that take cyclists safely through a city or town. When you consider the cost of community transportation, a comprehensive set of roads designed for bicyclists makes sense. It cuts down on traffic, decreases pollution and increases the safety of citizens.
Cyclists have a greater responsibility than a driver for ensuring that they don’t do anything to put themselves in harm’s way. For instance, if cyclists are riding through a parking lot and there are several parked cars in a row, the cyclists need to account for the possibility that someone will open their door, or begin to pull out. While the driver needs to be aware at all times, most drivers simply don’t think that opening their door is an action that could harm anybody. The cyclist knows there are parked cars that could potentially knock them off their bicycle. Other smart ways to reduce the chance of an accident is to always pass on the right, avoid riding in a drivers blind spot, leave the headphones at home and never assume that a driver sees you.
Whose Responsibility Is It?
In the end, both drivers and cyclists need to take responsibility for what they can control. Cyclists are less common than drivers, and they need to make sure that a driver won’t do something stupid to harm them. Be careful when coming upon a turn into a subdivision. Drivers will often turn without thinking about the cyclist coming in the opposite direction. At the same time, drivers need to make sure that they give cyclists the room they need to commute safely and give a cyclist extra consideration when driving at high speeds.