A safe cyclist follows vehicle rules

As someone who has spent 37 years commuting on a bicycle (ever since I rode 15 miles round-trip [each day of] my senior year of high school), I have to respond to Christopher Craig's recent uninformed, condescending and self-indulgent comments about cars sharing the road with bicyclists [Commentary, "Finding Equlibrium," Dec. 9].

Folks like Mr. Craig are the reason that drivers throw bottles at me when I'm commuting on my bicycle — they assume that all of us [cyclists] have his arrogant attitude about our absolute liberty to ride as we see fit on the highways.

Many drivers are uninformed about bicyclists' legal right to share the road, and it is certainly true that too many drivers exhibit gratuitous hostility toward bicyclists on the road. But it is equally true that some ignorant, oblivious bicyclists earn the scorn that drivers occasionally heap on all of us bikers. …

Sometimes it is necessary for bicyclists to ride farther into the traffic lane than cars would like, either because of the danger of parked car doors or because of debris on the shoulder of the road. But bicyclists are required to ride as far to the right in the lane of traffic as is possible.

The number-one safety factor for bicyclists is visibility; number two is predictability. It amazes me that so many cyclists ride at night with no lights or reflectors, and in dark-colored clothing. …

Like Mr. Craig, for many years I also would pass cars on the right in order to get to the front of a line of traffic. But then I was reminded by Claudia Nix (co-owner of Liberty Bicycles and one of the best bicycle advocates in town) that just as with cars, it is illegal for bicycles to pass a stopped line of traffic on the right.

If we cyclists want to be taken seriously as vehicles, and if we intend to assert our rights as vehicles, then we have to act like we are vehicles. That means that we have to obey the traffic laws, just like cars do. More than that: We have to be more visible and more predictable.

— Howard Shepherd

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9 thoughts on “A safe cyclist follows vehicle rules

  1. cd

    No. It’s not true. It is even better to just do zig-zags all over the road while whistling.

  2. John C. Tripp

    In all the years I’ve biked nobody has ever thrown a bottle at me.Doored me, nearly run me off the road, cursed at me, yes. Oh, I just remembered the time my girlfriend and I were bicyling in upstate NY and a carfull of kids threw a 32 oz. coke bottle at her head. So, I guess that refutes my opening statement. During the time I’ve bicycled I have tried to be respectful of others on the road. I’ve also tried to follow the rules. But following the rules “by the book” would have landed me in the morgue long ago. As long as bicyclists have to share the road with two ton vehicles they will always be the one that has to give way. And a lot of times that means jumping up on the sidewalk to avoid being hit. Or going to the front of the line at a red light to avoid cars that are passing on the right. Or taking a rolling stop in order to save a little energy (we at least deserve this much of a break). There’s no point in chastising someone because he vents a little and points out that we cyclists don’t get much respect. We cyclists need to stick together and stop splitting hairs. The fact is, the roads around Asheville are treacherous for bicyling and we get little support in the wider community: they think we’re just losers who can’t afford cars of freaks. The best thing we can do is try to get along — clearly this isn’t easy. But can just try?

  3. Cheshire

    It’s 20-146(b) of that NCDOT link. As far as POSSIBLE? Nope. The word used is “PRACTICABLE”. This means you should ride in the right 3rd of the lane. There are reasons to go further left, as well. Blind curves so you have time and room to react, avoiding getting doored, broken glass, crap pavement and potholes, stuff even cars would swerve around…you get the idea.

    But generally, bicycles are expected, as slower vehicles, to be in the right 3rd of the curb lane until changing course of travel (like a left turn).

  4. Cheshire

    (Hate not having an edit function.)

    The “far as practicable” clause is only applicable when you’re traveling at speeds lower than what’s posted. If you’re going the speed limit, you’re legally on par with everyone else. For anyone not plodding along, this is pretty much all of downtown’s 20 mph limit streets.

  5. MPorter

    It is important for any cyclist or motorist from the UK reading this to appreciate that the law here does NOT require cyclists to keep to the nearside. The primary cycling position is the centre of the traffic lane where the cyclist is most readily visible and safest. It is up to the cyclist to decide whether it is safe to move over to allow a faster following vehicle to overtake. It seems extraordinary that some other juridictions require cyclists to travel in the position of greatest danger ‘where practicable’. The motorists should be using another lane to overtake; if that other lane is not clear he should not be squeezing through in the same lane.

  6. The Pontificator

    MPorter has the right idea. Cycling safety experts caution against “hugging the berm” as it invites motorists to squeeze past where they normally would use the other lane.

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