Share The Road: Safety Tips For Motorists

The first recorded car accident in history happened in 1896 when a car struck a bicycle. At the time, there were far fewer bicycles and even fewer cars. Today, there are 250 million registered vehicles tens of millions of bicycles. The potential for collisions is high, and more than 700 cyclists die every year in crashes.

In every single state, bicyclists are, by law, drivers of vehicles. That means they are entitled to all the same rights and many of the same responsibilities as motorists.

Drivers have to expect that bicyclists are going to share the road. They must watch for them and treat them the same way they would any slow-moving vehicle.

Boston bicycle accident lawyers at The Law Offices of Jeffrey S. Glassman's BikeAttorney.com want to impart on motorists that we’re trying to drive home the point that bicyclists are more important than drivers. Rather, the point is they have equal right to the road, and those traveling by bike are more vulnerable than those in cars.

Courtesy is a two-way street, and it’s important to remember that cyclists are not there to be “in your way.” They are sons, daughters, mothers, fathers and friends, many of whom are simply trying to get to work or get a little exercise.

Remember too that cyclists are protected by a number of state statutes, including Mass. Gen. Law Ch. 85, Section 11B , Mass. Gen. Law Ch. 90, Section 14 and Mass. Gen. Law Ch. 89, Section 2.

A violation of these laws might result in a fine or possibly even criminal charges depending on the circumstances and if the accident results in serious injury or death. But beyond that, living with the knowledge that you forever altered someone’s life because of a momentary judgment lapse is a heavy burden to bear.

The good news is almost every bicycle accident is preventable, and motorists play a huge role. Here, we offer some tips on how best to share the road.

Massachusetts Bike Safety Laws

There are a number of provisions in the Commonwealth that were written for the purpose of protecting cyclists. As a driver, you are required by law to:

  • Check for bicycles prior to opening a door in the path of other traffic. Citations for violating this rule are $100. Beyond that, “dooring” injuries can be quite serious.
  • Avoid making “right hooks,” which are sudden right turns at driveways and intersections after passing a cyclist.
  • Yield to a cyclist when making a left turn. The law also specifically includes the requirement to yield to cyclists who are riding to the right of traffic.

Share The Road

Lawmakers in the Commonwealth are continuing to work on new legislation that will improve cyclist safety. But just because certain actions aren’t prohibited or required by law doesn’t mean drivers should ignore them.

Often, these actions involve basic common sense and courtesy. Some examples:

  • Giving cyclists a minimum of 3 feet when passing in a car. There are so far 15 states that have settled on this as the legal base requirement. Mass. Gen. Law Ch. 89, Section 2 states only that drivers have to allow “a safe distance,” and that if there isn’t enough room to do so, the driver in the rear has to wait until it is safe.
  • Stay out of the bike lane. If you park your vehicle there, even if it’s just for a few seconds, a bicyclist traveling in that lane at 15 mph will suddenly have to swerve into a traffic lane. This poses a significant risk because other drivers aren’t expecting a cyclist to enter their lane because of the presence of the bike lane.
  • Don’t assume a cyclist is going to hear your car approaching from behind. It’s true that a cyclist can hear a lot more than those inside a vehicle. But traffic can be noisy and they may not be able to drown the rest of it out to hear you. Plus, they are focused on the road ahead. And of course, there are some who wear earbuds, though that isn’t recommended. The bottom line is even if you are laying on your horn, the cyclist might not hear it – or know it’s you – until there are seconds between you.
  • Understand that when a cyclist is riding far away from a row of parked vehicles, it isn’t to hog the lane. It’s to avoid being struck by a door suddenly swinging open.
  • Recognize that cyclists aren’t riding in the road to annoy you or slow you down. Even when there are bicycle lanes and wide shoulders, there may be items in the roadway that are of little consequence to those in a vehicle, but could prove serious hazards to cyclists, including broken glass, trash and cracks in the pavement.

The bottom line is a little patience and understanding can go a long way in these encounters. The goal is for everyone to get where they are going safely. For more resources on bike advocacy in the Commonwealth, visit MassBike.org.

If you are a cyclist who has been injured in a Boston bicycle accident, contact our offices today to learn more about how we can help.

Contact the Boston Bicycle Accident Lawyers at The Law Offices of Jeffrey S. Glassman's BikeAttorney.com.