Here are five things drivers need to know, and often don’t, about sharing the road. Dr. Gridlock has the flip side below.
●Cyclists might be on the left side of the road. If someone on a bike is turning left, the correct and legal thing for them to do is to move to the left, just as a driver would, and then turn left from there. If a cyclist is on the left side of the road, or a left lane of a multi-lane street, don’t honk or get angry; realize the cyclist is probably getting ready to turn left or making some other necessary maneuver.
●Riding outside a bike lane is often okay.
Bike lanes are great. They make many cyclists feel more comfortable on the road. They move many cyclists into a separate space so that drivers can pass without having to wait for the slower vehicle. However, a cyclist might be elsewhere on the road for many reasons, including the left turns mentioned above. In the District and Virginia, a cyclist can choose to ride outside the bike lane for any reason.
Cyclists also often ride in the left part of a bike lane to be farther from car doors that might suddenly open.
●If turning right across a bike lane, move into the bike lane first. Say you’re driving on a road with a bike lane on the right side. You want to make a right turn. What do you do? Many people just drive up to the corner in the “car” lane, then turn from there. That’s unsafe.
The right way to turn across a bike lane is to first merge into the bike lane a short distance before the corner. Signal to move right and look over your shoulder like you would changing lanes on a highway. If there are no cyclists coming, move over, then make the turn from there. Don’t move into the lane while stopped behind a line of cars at a light, because then a cyclist can’t get past, but do it when you’re ready to turn right and have the green.
●Bicycles are faster than you might think. A bike is slower than a car most of the time, but often not that much slower. If you’re driving and pass a cyclist, give some extra time before moving back into the lane, because that bike is also moving.
If you pass a cyclist and then plan to turn right, realize that the cyclist probably isn’t still back where you were when you passed, but has moved a lot farther. It’s generally safer for all to avoid passing a cyclist just before making a right turn, because the cyclist can end up in your blind spot.
Don’t honk. Some drivers think that it’s a courtesy to honk to tell a cyclist they’re coming. Trust me, they know. Cars make a fair amount of noise. Horns make an enormous amount of noise.