Helmet Head: Sharing the Road with Bicyclists
When it comes to being a cyclist on the major roads of your local city, you’re literally taking your life in your hands every time you get on your bike. Cyclists have to contend with horrible drivers, pedestrians, and other cyclists when they’re sharing the road. Traffic can be of major concern, as your protected by very little gear and a smallish aluminum piece of machinery. For many of the drivers sharing road, the rules for cyclists are completely unclear, so we’re often not sure where you’re supposed to be and where you’re allowed to be.
Sharing the road with a cyclist can go one of two ways; either we completely yield to the bicycles, or we pretend as though they don’t exist and speed around them. The drivers who speed around someone on a bicycle do so, mostly, because they don’t know what they’re supposed to do to properly share the road. There are a bunch of laws that the general public isn’t aware of, and rather than educate ourselves, we simply try to pretend they don’t exist. Perhaps, if drivers were better informed, there would be fewer issues with bicycle riders.
Rules of the Road
- Helmets – The first thing drivers often question about the cyclists with whom we’re sharing the road, is whether or not you’re legally required to wear a helmet when biking on the road. For many cyclists, the helmet is not an option, it’s a requirement. It’s the one piece of gear that protects your delicate parts from colliding with the road. As drivers, we typically don’t understand why cyclists wouldn’t want to wear a helmet, but we’re not sure about the laws. In most states, helmet laws only apply to children under the age of eighteen, but many cyclists choose to wear their helmets to protect their brain from drivers that don’t pay attention.
- On the Road? – Most drivers get flustered when they see a person on a bike in their lane, because we really don’t know where you’re allowed to be, or how we’re supposed to proceed when you’re in our lane. Where cyclists are permitted to ride varies largely based on the state, and how bike-friendly the city is. Some bigger cities have designated bike lanes, and these provide a much safer cycling experience for those who choose a bicycle as their mode of transportation. It’s up to cyclists and drivers to work together to keep up with the flow of traffic and not cause unnecessary accidents.
- Yielding – Do I yield to you, do you yield to me? How does the dynamic of us sharing the street actually work? Most drivers ask these questions to themselves every single time they encounter a cyclist in traffic. We just don’t know and nine times out of ten, you don’t either. So we begin the awkward dance of how to handle ourselves in traffic when it comes to a bike rider, and it usually halts traffic as we hem and haw about who goes first.
Respect is a Two-Way Street
We’re expected to share the road respectfully with motorcyclists, and that’s fairly easy because they assert themselves, and we have their laws reiterated constantly. However, cyclists aren’t always as vehement about their rights, and therefore become easily forgotten. Motorcycle riders get a lot of attention because they’ve created a movement for themselves so drivers can’t forget they’re around. Perhaps if cyclists were as vocal, drivers would be better versed in the rules and regulations in their area involving how to properly get along on the road with bicyclists.
Cyclists presence on the road is increasing every day as people are embracing a healthier lifestyle, and enjoying the weather. However, our knowledge of how to handle them isn’t increasing, and it’s becoming a problem. We have gotten in the habit of simply passing a bicyclist and not thinking about what happens after we pass. We have become complacent about courtesy with our fellow travelers, and as a result, hundreds of cyclists have been killed in traffic-related accidents. We, as drivers, need to learn the rules of how to handle sharing the road with cyclists, and they need to better learn how to coexist with moving vehicles. Together, with some education and concern, we can peacefully share our streets safely and not end up in an accident like the poor souls in the video below.