Remembering Bicycle Safety for Drivers

In light of the recent death of bicyclist Andres Martinez, it is easy to place the blame for motorist v. cyclist collisions on cyclists who fail to observe proper road etiquette and protect their own safety. While cyclists do bear the responsibility for watching out for themselves – as we all have the responsibility to drive defensively on the road – this ignores the obligation of motorists to recognize and respect those with whom they share the road.

More than 500,000 cyclists a year are injured seriously enough to seek emergency treatment, and around 700 die of bicycle related injuries. Nearly 60 percent of those injuries harm children under the age of fifteen.

Reading these statistics, and faced with the clear fact that death and injury could be avoided, how can we not all do our part to make the roadways a safer, friendlier place for cyclists?

There are several things we can easily do as motorists make our communities more bicycle friendly.

First and foremost, drivers must always be alert and aware of their surroundings. This is true at all times, for the safety of cyclists, pedestrians, other drivers and ourselves, but cyclists can give us extra things to watch out for. Remember to check the bike lane, particularly when turning. Cyclists are often hit by cars making both left and right hand turns, because they failed to check the bike lane when scanning for traffic.

Also, be aware of a cyclist’s speed. Some riders, on newer, high tech bicycles, can reach surprisingly high speeds. Others will not be so fast. A driver should never take a cyclist’s speed for granted.

Be aware of bicycles not only while driving, but also while opening car doors. Cyclists may not have time to stop if you open a door suddenly in front of them.

Extra caution and attention should be paid in residential areas or around schools where there are more likely to be children. Young children may have poor balance, and wobble more or take more erratic courses than adults. They are less likely to signal when turning or stopping. Always give children extra space while riding.

And make sure to give all cyclists ample space when passing. Passing too closely or too quickly is dangerous, and can be intimidating to cyclists. The wind from your passage can also even topple cyclists. Make sure you are well clear of cyclists before moving back into your own lane when passing.

Be polite – don’t honk as cyclists unless it’s an emergency. The horn is louder outside the car than it is inside, and the sudden, loud noise can be startling.

Remember that cyclists would generally prefer not to be in your way. If a cyclist is not to the extreme right hand side of the road, it is probably because he or she is trying to avoid hazards there which you may not be able to see.

If you or someone you love has been injured by a careless driver while riding a bicycle, it is important to talk to an experienced lawyer as soon as possible. Call (404) 531-9700 to schedule your free consultation at MLN Law.