We triathletes and cyclists seem to have a never-ending war with motorists. Motorists hate us, and, frankly, many cyclists disrespect motorists, sometimes unintentionally. If we want to survive on the same roads, both have to reach accommodation with the reality that the other has a right to be on the same road at the same time. What follows is a basic list of steps that can show how each can be respectful of the other, while at the same time avoid the carnage that then requires my legal skills. I have yet to met a client who loved the fact that they needed my legal help as a result of a run in with a motorist.
Respect that can and should be shown by a motorist to cyclists:
1. Cyclists have a legal right to be on the road. Be prepared to share the road with each other.
2. Know the laws as they pertain to cyclists: the three-foot rule; what Sharrows are and what they mean. I suspect only a minority of cyclists know what Sharrows are either. They are two short arrows with a cyclist painted in the road to denote a lane too narrow to safely allow both a vehicle and a bicycle on the road together. A Sharrow gives the cyclist the right to “take the lane” by riding in the center of the lane; the motorist must not try to pass.
3. Remember, these cyclists dressed in funny attire are not your enemy; in fact, they are mothers, fathers, children, and friends, as well as in almost all cases, drivers themselves. They are also largely defenseless in any crash with a motor vehicle. Respect their right to be on the road.
4. Always try to make eye contact when near a cyclist; the better the eye contact, the less likely and accident.
5. Wherever possible, yield to the cyclist; such action creates a safer environment, and you will find cyclists doing the same for you.
Respect than can and should be shown by a cyclist to a motorist:
1. Whenever at a traffic control device, where a motorist is also there, don‘t run or roll the light or stop sign. When you do, you’ve made an enemy. Remember, when I’m representing you in a jury trial as a result of injuries you sustained when struck by a vehicle, all jurors are drivers (picked from driver’s license rolls). No cyclist will be on your jury. That driver who saw you roll the intersection could be sitting on your jury!
2. Don’t swarm a vehicle when approaching a controlled intersection; stop behind the vehicle; swarming terrifies drivers; makes them very nervous of us, and, again, we’ve just made an enemy. Waiting behind them will cost you little or no time, but will make riding safer for us all.
3. Whenever possible, make eye contact with a driver; it can save your life. Be friendly, give a wave to a driver, talk with them when stopped, demonstrate you’re a good person. You will have just made a friend instead of another driver who hates cyclists.
4. Know the law as it applies to cyclists. In Florida, we have the same rights and the same responsibilities as a driver. If you run a traffic control device, and you get a ticket, you are treated the same as a motorist; no hedging because we have to take our shoes out of our clips on the pedals when we stop; or, we were near the back of a line of bicycles, so shouldn’t we be given some slack. Nope, you won’t win that argument.
If we set the example for motorists, we will reap the benefit. We will never win over the extremist, but with some positive interaction, we may one day be an accepted part of the road. Be safe out there.