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How To Navigate Tensions Between Bicyclists and Drivers

More people than ever commute to work by bike. Between 2000 and 2019, the number of people who bike to work each day increased by 61%, with more than 786,000 Americans relying on bikes as their primary commuter option. 

Unfortunately, the rise of cyclists on the roads also means there are increased opportunities for tensions between people on bikes and drivers in cars. There are around 1.2 million road fatalities each year and nearly half of them involve vulnerable road users — pedestrians, cyclists, and users of two-wheelers like motorcycles. 

If you are considering increasing your bike usage and using this tool to commute to work, know the potential risks you might face. Learn about the common causes of tension between cyclists and drivers and how to navigate these problems. 

Common Causes of Tension 

It is easy to forget that drivers and cyclists have the same right to use public roads. If you don’t live in a bike-friendly city, it’s easy to get intimidated by drivers. Meanwhile, drivers can often get frustrated by cyclists who are doing their best to navigate roads that weren’t built with their needs in mind. Here are a few common causes of tension to look out for. 

Driving Speed 

Speed is one of the biggest factors that can affect the safety of cyclists. In the event of a collision, speed plays a significant role in the potential survival rate of everyone involved. For example, the risk of death for a pedestrian struck at 32 mph is 25%. This jumps up to 50% at 42 mph and 70% at 50 mph. Naturally, this likelihood varies depending on the health of the victim and the type of accident, but you can see how even a change of 10 mph can significantly impact the chances of survival.

Speed also becomes an issue when it comes to stopping. The faster someone drives, the more space they need to reach a full stop. If a driver is speeding and doesn’t see a pedestrian or a cyclist, they might not be able to stop in time. 

Speeding is often one of the main topics discussed in bicycle accident settlements and pedestrian accident settlements. Even going a few miles over the speed limit can create an unsafe environment. 

Unsafe Passing

Along with speeding, unsafe passing can also create dangerous situations for cyclists and drivers alike. Unsafe passing occurs when a car passes a bike too closely or when the car moves into another lane — potentially into oncoming traffic — to pass a cyclist. 

Even a small mistake from the cyclist, driver, or another car on the road can put people at risk of severe injuries like whiplash and potential fatalities. It’s not uncommon for cars to T-bone on impact, potentially creating a serious accident that involves multiple parties. 

Road Rage 

Road rage involves driving in an aggressive manner that could endanger the safety of other drivers, cyclists, and pedestrians. It includes everything from following too closely to honking your horn and cursing excessively. It can even include ramming and sideswiping another vehicle. 

You cannot control other drivers, but you can control your own road rage and your response to the actions of others. Law enforcement professionals say you should never underestimate the driver’s potential for aggression. Avoid eye contact, do not engage with the driver, and instead find a safe, well-lit place to get away from them. 

Road Hazards 

Both cyclists and drivers have to contend with road hazards. Drivers have to look for barriers in the road, potholes, and potential blind spots caused by turns or overgrown trees. Cyclists have to look for the same hazards, along with debris and other overgrowth that can block their pathway. A low tree branch can hit a cyclist or force them into the road and potentially in the way of cars.

Hazards are frustrating for drivers, cyclists, and even motorcyclists. If you notice an unsafe road hazard, report it. The more people who report a dangerous pothole or tree branch handing over the street, the sooner your local government can address the problem. 

How To Navigate Tensions Safely

In most cases, it is possible to navigate road tensions without confrontation, dangerous actions, and potential accidents. Both drivers and cyclists can take steps to share the road and make their morning commutes safer and more enjoyable. Here are a few things to consider the next time you get behind the wheel or mount your bike. 

For Drivers 

Drivers have a significant responsibility to watch for pedestrians and cyclists because they are more vulnerable. You are safer in your car and can go much faster than others on the road. Here are a few ways you can keep cyclists safe.

  • Pass cyclists safely, even if it means waiting for a clear opportunity. 
  • Slow down when passing cyclists. 
  • Maintain a safe distance from cyclists on the road. 
  • Carefully check your mirrors and blind spots before turning right. There could be a cyclist on your passenger side. 
  • Use your signal lights. This tells cyclists where you are going. 
  • When you park on the street, be careful when opening your doors. 

Never engage in confrontations with cyclists if you encounter people on bikes with road rage. Instead, report aggressive cyclists when possible. Do not try to resolve the situation yourself. 

For Bicyclists 

Cyclists can also create positive road experiences for drivers and other people on the road. Here are a few tips to stay safe and commute calmly each day.

  • Be aware of your surroundings. Know when cars are present and how they are traveling. 
  • Avoid weaving between cars on the road. This makes cyclists harder to see and creates unsafe conditions for everyone involved. 
  • Use hand signals whenever you are turning or stopping. This tells drivers what you are going to do. 
  • Wear bright colors so you are easily seen. Some cyclists invest in safety vests for this purpose. 
  • Follow the cyclist rules of the road. 

Remain calm in the event that you encounter a driver with road rage. Understand that drivers may not see you immediately on the road or know your legal rights to use those streets. You don’t need to match the anger of another driver with your own frustration. 

When To Contact Legal Assistance 

If you are involved in an accident as a driver or a cyclist, talk to a legal professional. A professional who navigates car accident lawsuits and motorcycle accident settlements every day can help you understand your rights and your protections. They can also help you secure the settlement you deserve if you were injured in the accident. 

You can also contact an attorney if you need guidance regarding your rights as a cyclist or driver on public roads. This can help you make good decisions regarding your commute and the roads you take each day. You shouldn’t be afraid to travel by bike in your town. The right lawyer can give you the insights you need to travel safely.