How to talk bike safety with those who don’t ride (yet)
By Bob Mionske
Have I ever mentioned my Uncle Leo? He doesn’t ride, and he writes me off as one of those weirdos in spandex. We all have someone like this in our lives, a nonriding friend or relative who doesn’t understand or even doesn’t like cyclists. Rather than get defensive, I prefer to think of the Uncle Leos of the world as people who offer us a chance to start a dialogue about why cycling is important to us. Because we’re not just nameless, faceless jerks getting in their way: We’re people they know and care about.
You can begin by demystifying some aspects of lawful cycling behavior that confuse drivers. You can also explain things drivers can do to help keep cyclists safe. Just don’t be surprised if the conversation is a two-way street—Uncle Leo may have a list of his own.
Cyclists have a legal right to ride on the road.
In fact, it’s often illegal for us to pedal on the sidewalk.
Cyclists are required to ride only as close to the right as is safe.
And when it comes to the road surface and traffic conditions, what looks safe to a cyclist and safe to a driver are often very different.
Look for riders when you’re driving or opening the car door.
Never try to beat a cyclist to a turn.
It is easy to misjudge how fast we’re traveling.
Always use turn signals.
Even if you don’t see a cyclist, the cyclist is more likely to see you.
Pass with care.
Allow at least 3 feet between you and a cyclist, maintain a safe speed, and don’t accelerate.
Focus on driving.
Leave your other chores—eating, reading, flossing your teeth—for later. And never, ever text while driving.
Cycling offers tons of benefits. Share these with family and friends.
Each mile of cycling saves $1 in health costs. While cyclists don’t damage roads, we do pay taxes to maintain them. Bike infrastructure is cheaper than any other form of transportation improvement.
It reduces traffic congestion.
That makes commuting easier for motorists.
It improves your health.
Riding is one of the best ways to offset the negative effects of inactivity, which causes 5.3 million deaths annually.
Research and assistance by Rick Bernardi, J.D.
This article, Help From Our Friends, was originally published on Bicycling on May 11, 2013.