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Road Rights – Help From Our Friends

By May 11, 2013October 23rd, 2021No Comments

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.

Pay attention.
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.

It’s economical.
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.

Now read the fine print:
Bob Mionske is a former competitive cyclist who represented the U.S. at the 1988 Olympic games (where he finished fourth in the road race), the 1992 Olympics, as well as winning the 1990 national championship road race.
After retiring from racing in 1993, he coached the Saturn Professional Cycling team for one year before heading off to law school. Mionske’s practice is now split between personal-injury work, representing professional athletes as an agent and other legal issues facing endurance athletes (traffic violations, contract, criminal charges, intellectual property, etc).
Mionske is also the author of Bicycling and the Law, designed to be the primary resource for cyclists to consult when faced with a legal question. It provides readers with the knowledge to avoid many legal problems in the first place, and informs them of their rights, their responsibilities, and what steps they can take if they do encounter a legal problem.
If you have a cycling-related legal question, please send it to Bob will answer as many of these questions privately as he can. He will also select a few questions each week to answer in this column. General bicycle-accident advice can be found at
Important notice:
The information provided in the “Road Rights” column is not legal advice. The information provided on this public web site is provided solely for the general interest of the visitors to this web site. The information contained in the column applies to general principles of American jurisprudence and may not reflect current legal developments or statutory changes in the various jurisdictions and therefore should not be relied upon or interpreted as legal advice. Understand that reading the information contained in this column does not mean you have established an attorney-client relationship with attorney Bob Mionske. Readers of this column should not act upon any information contained in the web site without first seeking the advice of legal counsel.