Until motorists and bicyclists learn to share the road, thousands will be needlessly injured or even killed in crashes that could have been avoided.
I’ve been representing injured bikers for over 20 years. Let me be clear, by bikers I mean motorcyclists and bicyclists. One of the things I’ve learned, which I believe the average person may not know, is that there is actually more bias against bicyclists on the road than motorcyclists. Many people feel it is crazy to be on a motorcycle and if you are injured it is partially your own fault. However, they at least acknowledge the right of the motorcyclist to be on the road. This can not be said for bicyclists!
I was surprised to find there is an even greater bias against bicyclists. This is very alarming and personal to me, as I am an avid cyclist as well as a bicycle accident lawyer. The amount of people on bicycles in the United States is minuscule compared to other countries such as the Netherlands, but is on a very steep rise. Our top cycling cities, such as Portland, only have about 6% of people commuting to work, where in the Netherlands it is closer to 40%. If bicyclists and automobiles cannot learn to share the road, I predict we will see a very large increase in injuries and fatalities.
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In my experience, many motorists do not feel they should have to share the road with cyclists. The bicyclist is never going to win a bicycle v. automobile accident and, as such, protected lanes ultimately will be the most preferential way to travel on bicycle. However, it will be a significant amount of time until all bicyclists have protected lanes. There needs to be more education and greater enforcement of bicycle and motor vehicle safety laws.
I understand personally how many bicyclists feel that it is not necessary to follow all traffic rules, such as traffic lights and stop signs. Many of us have grown up in a world where bicyclists were free to ignore normal traffic laws and almost consider that a privilege of being on a bicycle. However, this attitude has enhanced the motorists view of bicyclists as being reckless and unpredictable. Accordingly, I believe it is very important for all bicyclists to follow all traffic laws and correspondingly for motorists to follow laws applicable to them as well, such as providing at least 3 feet of clearance while passing bicyclists.
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All too often I come across accidents in my practice that I know are very avoidable. One of the ways to avoid accidents is simply to have better education for bicyclists and motorists. For instance, a very common scenario is a bicyclist driving on a sidewalk against the direction of traffic that comes upon an intersection against traffic. The automobile that is going to take a right turn will only be looking to the left and often will pull out in front of the bicyclist. This is an obvious example where more driver education could avoid this type of accident. For instance, the bicyclist should anticipate that a car taking a right turn will not be looking to the right and the motorist should anticipate that a bicycle may be on the sidewalk. This is just one example of many different ways to enhance the safety of both the motorist and bicyclist. Let me know what your thoughts are.
Ride. Be Safe. Have Fun.
Bicycle Lawyer and Enthusiast,
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