|Louisiana signage. Photo credit: Biking Bis|
While these rules sound well and good, intending to protect the cyclist, they've bothered me to a large extent because what seems like common sense had to become a legality for people to suddenly pay attention. Will a driver now pass a cyclist with more care than before just because it's a law? I think not.
Since the law took effect, I haven't noticed any increase in the space allotted from passing motorists. Most do go by with ample room—by ample room I mean 6 feet—but I'm concerned when a motorist is too close. In that frightened moment I am forced to hold the bike as steady as possible or escape onto the shoulder (or heaven forbid into a ditch) until the vehicle goes by. Many times we are unaware that a vehicle is even behind us until it's too late.
|Only 3 feet? What if cyclists want more? Photo credit: Velo Village|
I think drivers come from the mindset that motorized vehicles have the right-of-way. And to be fair these same operators (mostly) are also not regular cyclists. Case in point: I occasionally catch a lift with my boss who exceeds the speed limit by at least 10 m.p.h. This is the same road that I bike commute on. One day we were cresting a hill with a cyclist slowly climbing ahead of us. My boss intended to pass the bicyclist so I spoke up, "What if you meet a vehicle coming over the hill? Your only recourse is to swerve to the right, forcing the cyclist off the road". Or, I thought, hit them. Fortunately he listened and waited. Yes, my boss is not a bike rider and was clearly not thinking from that viewpoint. I encounter similar situations while a passenger in my family's cars.
|Yikes, too close! Photo credit: League of American Bicyclists|
originally from www.cyclelicio.us
I think the ultimate solution has to come from a more basic level: education. Teach the youngsters to ride. Teach safety skills. Teach children that cycling can be transportation. As our kids grow, teach awareness, respect, and share-the-road skills even in Drivers Education at the high school level. And teach that driving is not an entitlement but a privilege. While some of us regular cyclists already instill these skills in our youngsters it needs to be addressed in a broader scope, so all children receive this education. After all, children are the caretakers of our future—as drivers and as cyclists.
|Education in the schools. Kids must educate their parents and ask to ride to school. |
Photo credit: Local Motion
I'd love to hear others' thoughts on this subject.
Click here to see a PDF of the new law.