As a driver, you need to be constantly vigilant for unpredictable or hazardous road conditions. Bikes pose one such threat, especially in urban driving conditions and situations where there is low visibility. Smaller and easy to maneuver into tight spaces, bicyclists may not always obey the rules of the road. Yet when you collide with a bike, you can cause serious damage, especially if the cyclist isn't wearing a protective helmet.
In fact, 806 cyclists died in 2020 as the result of collisions with motor vehicles. Here's what to know about sharing a road with bicycles so that you can avoid accidents and deadly collisions alike.
What to Expect When Sharing a Road With Bicycles
What the Statistics Say
Obviously, a collision with a bike can happen anytime. Interestingly, though, a bike accident is more likely to occur under the following conditions:
It's between 6 p.m and 9 p.m, regardless of the season.
You are driving in the city. In 2019, 78% of all bicyclist deaths occurred in an urban environment.
The bike rider is male.
The cyclist has been drinking alcohol.
How Cyclists Are Legally Required to Behave
You can't always count on cyclists to behave predictably, but they do have to abide by certain rules of the road.
Even though wearing a helmet can reduce the possibility of traumatic head injury, there are no federal laws mandating helmets for all cyclists, and only 22 states have implemented state-wide laws.
Bikes are only required to stay to the righthand side of the road if the lane is wide enough to accommodate both a motorist and a cyclist. Otherwise, they may ride in the center of the lane. They can also ride in the center of a lane to move around parked vehicles and other obstacles.
Bike riders must abide by the same rules of the road that motorists do. That includes obeying traffic signs and riding with the flow of traffic.
Bikes must have a white headlight in front and a red reflector at the back when they ride between dusk and dawn.
How to Drive Safely When Bicycles Are Present
Just as bikes have to follow certain rules of the road, so must motorists follow rules to share the road safely with bicycles:
Drivers need to keep three feet between themselves and a bike when passing.
It's illegal to crowd or pressure bikes on the roadway.
It's also illegal to open a car door when a cyclist is approaching.
Drivers cannot drive or park in a designated bike lane.
Drivers also need to exercise caution when in the presence of cyclists, especially in low visibility situations, crowded urban thoroughfares, and intersections.
You should always note the presence of bikes on the road when approaching an intersection, for instance. While you are stopped in traffic, the bike may continue to move forward and enter your blind spot. That makes it easy for your vehicle to collide with the bike if you are making a righthand turn.
You should also exercise caution when the sun is low on the horizon, impairing visibility, and when there is fog. These conditions make it very hard to see bikes.
Ready to Learn How to Be a Safer Driver?
DriversEd.com offers defensive driving courses — sometimes known as "traffic school" — so that drivers can expunge a ticket from their record. These courses are also a great way for new and more experienced drivers to learn how to safely share the road with cyclists. There's no greater investment than peace of mind.