As an avid bike rider, I get in conversations from time to time about the relationship between bike riders and “car people.” It doesn’t take long to get into a conversation with a car person when you tell someone about a dangerous encounter you, the bike rider, had recently with a car, truck, bus or other moving vehicle. We’re all quick to blame each other for breaking the laws.
Sadly, not much research has been done regarding who’s better or worse, vehicle operators or bike riders. One recent, study done in Denmark has provided the first facts about this subject.
According to the website Treehugger.com, the Danish government engaged a consulting firm named Ramboll to place video cameras at major intersections in Danish cities. The video evidence showed that 14 percent of the time, bike riders broke the law when riding where no bike infrastructure was present. This dropped to 4.9% when there was a bike infrastructure.
So what percentage of vehicles were shown to break the law? 66 percent. Yep, 66 percent. So vehicles were shown to break the law about five times more often than bike riders.
Can this be true? Probably not. I ride in traffic a lot and I don’t see nearly that many vehicles breaking the law. But it only needs to happen once to cause terrific harm to both bike rider and vehicle operator.
What can we do to get along? Here are some ideas:
Let’s truly share the roads. Bikers need to ride single file, not blow through stop signs and traffic lights and try to be courteous to vehicles. Bikers need to use hand signals; left arm out for a left turn, right arm out for a right turn. Obey lane markings. Don’t pass cars on the right, even when they’re stopped for a traffic light or stop sign. These drivers aren’t looking for you.
Always ride with traffic and always be ready to yield to vehicles. They’re bigger and made of tougher stuff than you and your bike. It’s good practice to always behave like a vehicle; follow the traffic laws.
Vehicles should obey Pennsylvania’s Four Foot Law. This law requires that vehicles allow four feet of clearance when passing a bicycle. It requires that the vehicle slow down until it is clear enough to pull out and pass the bike rider. You may even cross a double yellow line to do this. This alone makes road biking much safer.
When approaching a bike rider, don’t blow the horn or yell at the biker. Usually, we know you’re there and good bike riders will make an effort to allow you to pass safely and quickly. Please keep in mind that we’re moving more slowly than you are and that many shoulders of Pennsylvania roads are in terrible condition. We’d like to get over, but oftentimes, we can’t. Adding a few seconds to the length of your trip by passing prudently may just save an injury or a life.
A little patience and tolerance on both the part of the bike rider and the vehicle operator can make a huge difference. It saddens me that so many people won’t bike on the road because of perceived danger. We all pay road taxes, we need to share the road.
Join our “4th Ride for Trails” on Sept. 28. This year there will be a guided 12-mile ride, a 25-mile ride starting together with HABPI board members, and a 37-mile, “register and go” ride. Lunch will be provided for all registered riders, and t-shirts for early registrants. Help us raise money to build trails in Adams County. Go to www.habpi.org for information under “News Feed.”