Respect Has to Go Both Ways Between Cyclists and Motorists

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.

 Is It Just Too Dangerous to Ride on Our Florida Roads?

With the latest news of a father killed and his child seriously injured while riding on a paved trail off the main road in New Tampa, one has to at least ask the question. I understand this latest accident (well, apparently not an accident at all, but an intentional act of a deranged person) is different than the “normal” distracted driver accident we have seen so often that we are now becoming numb to such news. Nonetheless, we, as cyclists using our public roads, have to be aware that not only are many drivers distracted (texting, dialing their phone, checking phone messages, eating, putting on makeup, reading, and a myriad of other clearly unsafe acts), but it seems we are regularly having to deal with irate drivers, who can’t wait the five seconds for cyclists to clear, or who just fume that we are not on the sidewalk “where we belong!”

Perhaps it’s a sign of the very polarized times we live in today. Whatever the reasons, the streets are getting “meaner” and the motorists more aggressive (am I the only one who has had a motorist “buzz” me when I’m doing everything right?), and the very act of riding for pleasure becomes less fun.

What can we do about this? Become more vocal with our elected officials and law enforcement. The time for not prosecuting drivers for their criminal behavior is over. Slaps on the wrist for running down, maiming, and even killing cyclists have to stop.

As cyclists, we need to be more proactive on the roads as well: use front and rear strobe lights day and night; go out of our way to be verbal in a positive way to motorists and pedestrians while on your bike. Make an effort to be friendly. Start actually obeying traffic control devices as the law requires, but as very few of us actually follow. Every time you run a stop sign or light when vehicles are already stopped at that intersection makes us one or more new hateful motorists. Why do we think the laws don’t apply to cyclists when we are the violators, but expect the laws to be strictly enforced when motorists do the same thing?

We, as both cyclists and motorists, need to be the example of how to treat others, of how to abide by the laws, even if it means a bit more work starting and stopping our bikes. Aren’t we out there for exercise?

It’s not unusual for me, having just stopped for a red light, to have another club member heading for the same ride blow through the intersection I and vehicles have stopped at. Think, and if you do this, you’ll realize you’ve just made us all another enemy behind the wheel. I implore all, please be the example of how everyone should safely use the roads.