As a motor vehicle driver, you have a responsibility for the safety of those that you share the road with – especially vulnerable road users such as bicyclists and pedestrians. In Colorado, statistics for the latest year state that 16 bicyclists died in motor vehicle accidents. You may have the power to prevent a bicycle accident and save a life by using these tips to safely share the road with cyclists.
The right-of-way is a road user’s legal right to proceed across a road, such as at an intersection. Although bicyclists do not automatically have the right-of-way, you must yield to a biker if he or she has a green light or approached the intersection first. If a cyclist is riding on the sidewalk and crossing the road, you must yield to the cyclist if you are turning onto the road being crossed. Even if you know that you have the right-of-way, come to a complete stop and make sure that the bicyclist stops as well before proceeding.
Motorists driving and passing too closely to cyclists can cause accidents, including sideswipe accidents. According to Colorado law, all motor vehicle drivers must keep a distance of at least three feet between their vehicles and bicycles when riding behind them or passing, including mirrors and trailers. If you are passing a bike rider, make sure you have plenty of room in front of the cyclist to get back over before changing lanes.
Use special caution when making turns as a motor vehicle driver. When making a left-hand turn, check twice for bicyclists in the road or bicycle lane opposite you. Be careful not to underestimate the speed or distance of an approaching cyclist. Wait until the cyclist has passed to proceed with the left-hand turn. When making a right turn, check for cyclists riding next to you or immediately behind you. Allow them to pass before making the turn to avoid turning on top of them.
After you park your car, always look in your mirrors and over your shoulder to check for oncoming cyclists before opening your door. If you are parked in the street or near a bicycle lane, there may be a bicyclist approaching at the same time that you swing your door open. This can lead to an accident known as dooring, where the cyclist strikes your car door and is often catapulted off his or her bicycle.
If you are on a road that has a designated bicycle lane, keep your vehicle out of this lane at all times. Do not drive, pull over or park in a bicycle lane, even for a minute, as this could lead to a bicyclist crashing into your vehicle. Bike lanes are designed only for bicyclists, to provide them a place to ride safely and freely. If you must cross a bicycle lane, do so carefully and only after ascertaining that there are no oncoming cyclists.
Never honk or shout at a bicyclist, even if they are breaking roadway rules. Cyclists are much more vulnerable to serious injuries in an accident than you are as the driver of a motor vehicle. No matter how frustrated you are, give the cyclist space and be respectful. Otherwise, you could startle the cyclist and cause an accident. Only use your horn if you are doing so to try to prevent a collision.
Always be on the lookout for young children riding bicycles in your neighborhood. Use extra caution when driving through residential areas and school zones. Children may not understand the rules of the road and may bike out into traffic without the right-of-way. They may also be unsteady on their bicycles and prone to falling over. Drive slowly around children who are on bikes and be prepared to stop at any moment.
If you get involved in a bicycle accident, consult with a bicycle collision attorney in Denver for advice right away.