Driving 101: Cars vs. Bicycles


Recently, there was an incident where a driver hit a cyclist on the Natchez Trace Parkway and kept driving.  Fortunately, the cyclist was not seriously injured and the driver was arrested thanks to video of the incident which went viral.  This incident raised issues about drivers sharing the road with cyclists.

The rules are different depending on the area and various jurisdictions which govern cyclists using the roads.   In this incident, the Natchez Trace Parkway allows cyclists to use the full lane.  In other areas, there are designated bike lanes.

One of the things that irritated me this morning watching the news, they repeated the fact that cyclists should be treated just like another vehicle on the road.   I’m okay with that but the problem is that I have personally witnessed cyclists not acting like another vehicle on the road.  About 50 percent of the cyclists I have witnessed downtown do not obey the traffic laws.  I have seen them run red lights, make illegal lane changes or just totally drive reckless.  If they want to be treated like “any other vehicle on the road” then they need to obey the laws too.   So, don’t just come down on drivers as the culprit.  It works both ways on the road.

So what are the general rules about dealing with cyclists?

  • Drivers must not pass too closely.  Keep the appropriate distance.
  • Drives should look carefully and be alert for cyclists when turning or merging.  Do not pass a cyclist just before making a right turn.  Merge first, then turn.
  • Before passing a cyclist, wait until traffic is clear in the opposite lane. Give yourself more space to pass than you would another vehicle.  The minimum distance is at least three feet from the widest point of both the car and bicycle.
  • Tone down the rage.  Your vehicle is not match for a bicycle.

What cyclists should know:

  • Obey the traffic laws.  Red lights are for you too.
  • Stay in your bike lane unless you have to exit.
  • Map out a good, safe route.  Don’t just assume people will look out for you because they are supposed to.
  • Always be alert of the traffic flow, especially during rush hour traffic.
  • Always wear protective equipment and reflective clothing if riding at night.

When incidents like this happen, people always come down on the drivers.  Certainly, in this case, the driver was definitely the villain.  Just with another other traffic issues here in the Music City, it was yet another case of impatience.  You’re not going to find a lot of sympathy from drivers who get stuck behind a cyclist going 5 MPH.

The most important thing for both drivers and cyclists is to share the road.  We all want to get where we are going safely.  Stop being so damn impatient.  Just do what you are supposed to do and it will all work out.  Nobody wants to be involved in an accident regardless who’s at fault.  This isn’t a competition.


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