When in doubt, be patient and be courteous.
If it seems like every spring there are more and more cyclists on your roads, you are probably right, and you probably live in a healthy community. In many cities, suburbs, and rural settings, cycling has been increasing in popularity, growing from about 48 million total riders in the U.S. in 2010 to 67 million riders last year. This growth is happening in part because of an increasing awareness of the health benefits of cycling, and also because of a move towards greater acceptance — and accommodation — of cyclists on our roads. In a recent article in the Washington Post, one avid cyclist notes happily that in the past couple of years he hasn’t had a single frightening issue with motorists; in his experience dangerous motorist-cyclist interactions were far more commonplace ten years ago.
For those who drive the busy streets of Richmond, or the back roads of Loudoun County, it has become not unusual to have to yield the lane to a biker who is navigating a busy intersection or a bumpy road. Despite the progress, for those who bike frequently, it is still too common to have a driver make a dangerous pass, or express their frustration in an unnerving way. As we see in our work with clients who have suffered injury through someone else’s negligence, these incidents can sometimes lead to life-changing injuries, or even death. While statistics show that cycling is getting safer in the United States, we are still one of the riskiest developed countries to cycle in.
With the summer cycling season getting into full swing, Burnett & Williams would like to encourage drivers and cyclists to keep working on sharing the road in a safe, respectful manner. Cyclists should obey traffic laws with the same diligence they would while driving a car, including even the dreaded stop at stop signs when ‘clipped in’ to the bike pedals. If a biker causes an accident while breaking a law, they could be liable for any damages caused.
Drivers should always err on the side of patience when passing a cyclist. No matter how hard it is, they should be respectful of the fact that cyclists have the same rights to any lane that cars do. If a driver injures a cyclist while making an untimely pass, that driver will likely be held responsible for the accident. For a few more tips on driving safely around bikes check here.
If you have a story about encounters between bikes and cars in Northern Virginia, Richmond, the Tri-Cities area, or the Shenandoah Valley, we’d like to hear them. Post a comment below.