Friday is Bike to Work Day. The annual event to encourage commuter cycling in the D.C. region probably will put thousands of additional riders in lanes they’ll be sharing with cars.
This post is addressed to drivers: Remember that the cyclists have as much right to be on those streets as you do, and they’re a lot more vulnerable in collisions than you are.
When I write stuff like that, many of my readers who drive will write back to say that if the cyclists want to be safe, they should obey the traffic laws.
And that’s absolutely correct. Many bikers don’t, and they should. I rarely see a cyclist stop for a stop sign or red light. Some don’t even slow down. Drivers at least slow down for stop signs.
Let’s skip past the part about who is more above average in playing by the rules, and instead go for how we make sure no one gets hurt Friday. Drivers will be seeing more riders than they’re used to on busy commuter routes. And many of these cyclists will be riding in packs that include some less-experienced bikers drawn in by the event, which includes a rally with bagels and T-shirts at Freedom Plaza at 14th Street and Pennsylvania Avenue NW, as well as many other locations across the D.C. region.
AAA Mid-Atlantic has a list of good suggestions for drivers on sharing the road this Friday:
* Be especially careful to watch for cyclists when making right or left turns. [Cyclists are taught to be especially wary of a driver’s “right hook,” a right turn across the path of an oncoming cyclists. When making lefts, drivers sometimes watch only for cars, somehow rendering oncoming cyclists invisible.]
* Check for bicyclists along the edge of the traffic lane before opening car doors so as not to cause a collision when exiting the vehicle. [Such accidents so common that cyclists refer to it as “dooring.”]
* Allow three feet of passing space between your vehicle and the cyclist. Tailgating or honking can startle or fluster a bicyclist, causing them to swerve further into the driving lane.
* Be patient. Remember, cyclists are moving under their own power and can’t be expected to go the same speed as cars.
* Pay special attention to blind spots.
* Be attentive on side streets and neighborhoods. Follow the speed limit, avoid being distracted and always be aware of your surroundings. It is particularly important to be cautious when backing out of a driveway and onto the street.
* Give cyclists extra room during inclement weather. [The forecast for Friday includes a 30 percent chance of thunderstorms, according to the Capital Weather Gang.]