I love to teach people how to bicycle with traffic, because I get satisfaction from empowering individuals. But I could have more impact by educating motorists how to drive with bicyclists. What every bicyclist wants for Christmas is better drivers!
A bicyclist has a lot of motivation to learn how to bike with traffic and avoid drivers’ mistakes. Drivers do not have much motivation to learn how to drive with bicyclists. To reach other drivers, we first have to find their motivation to listen to this message. It’s easy to say “Those crazy cyclists run all the red lights” or “The highway is no place for a bicycle” and avoid the responsibility.
The best way to educate a motorist about how to drive around bicycles is to put the motorist on a bicycle. Bicyclists report being more aware of other bicyclists and pedestrians when they are driving, and most drivers, both those who also bicycle (91%) and those who don’t (80%), believe that bicyclists are better drivers, according to a survey by the Institute of Advanced Motoring.
Another effective way motorists learn to drive with bicyclists is by driving with bicyclists. In areas where bicycling is common, drivers know what to expect. This summer, I biked across Kansas with 800 other bicyclists, and by the time motorists met me, they had already passed hundreds of other cyclists. I was no surprise to them.
If you haven’t ridden a bike in a long time, I encourage you to ride around town. That will help you be a better driver and increase the population of bicycles, which trains other drivers to expect bicycles. You can give cyclists everywhere a little Christmas present by paying attention to these three lessons:
The most dangerous driver to bicyclists is the inattentive driver. Don’t text and drive. Pay attention. Watch for cyclists at intersections, especially when turning. When pulling out of a driveway or parking lot, watch for bicyclists on the sidewalk or going the wrong way, because many bicyclists don’t know that they are safest on the road going the direction of traffic.
The scariest driver to bicyclists is the one who passes too closely. Allow 3 feet or more when passing, and slow down.
Another frightful driver is one who harasses bicyclists, throwing objects, yelling, honking, and other intimidating and behavior. Bicyclists have the same rights and responsibilities on the road, including highways. There is no minimum speed limit except on the interstate. Be patient, and wait for a safe opportunity to pass, just as you would for a tractor. Often, the bicyclist will pull over into a driveway or other safe space and allow you to pass.
My present to you is the parking space close to the store that I’m not using because I biked. However, I understand if you choose to park further away because you know the walk across the parking lot is good for your heart. Happy Holidays!