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Bike riding has become increasingly popular across the United States, and we’re not just talking about kids riding their bikes on the street. In fact, between 2000 and 2009, the number of regular bike commuters grew 70% across the entire country, and the numbers are even higher in areas of the United States like the Northeast.
The huge growth in bike commuters is no surprise –cycling in lieu of driving can have positive impacts on both the environment and your own health. Some benefits of riding a bike instead of driving include:
•Cycling improves cardiovascular and aerobic fitness, can help build muscle, boost energy and much more
•You can also save money by choosing to ride your bike because of the cost of gas
•According to the Union of Concerned Scientists, cars and trucks account for nearly one-fifth of all US emissions –riding a bike can eliminate some of those carbon dioxide emissions
Here are some tips on how bike riders and drivers can harmoniously co-exist:
Tips for Bike Riders
Riding on the road can be exciting for bike riders, but also scary with cars whizzing past. Luckily, the rules of the road are in place to keepeveryone safe! Need a refresher? Keep in mind that local laws may vary, so be sure to look up your local and state laws, but here are some of the basics:
Safety gear. Again, each state has their own rules and regulations, but in general, most areas want cyclists to be wearing or have safety equipment such as:
•A helmet! We can’t stress this one enough.
•A bell or horn
•If cycling around sunrise, sunset or in the dark evening, a white headlight and red taillight
•Reflectors on the front and back of your bike
Bike in the same direction of traffic. Bicycles are considered road vehicles just like cars, so they should follow the same traffic pattern as vehicles.
Stay to the right. While bike riders can travel in different lanes, it’s often best to stay to the right of the street and allow for enough room for a car to pass. Remember to be mindful of any parked cars and try to leave a safe distance in the event that someone would quickly open a door on the driver’s side of a vehicle.
Single file. We know, it is great to ride alongside your friends and chat while getting some exercise or heading to work. But it can be dangerous to ride side by side, so stay single file!
Obey traffic signs. It might feel great to breeze right through that stop sign, but even if you’re on a bike, you must stop at red lights, stop signs and obey all traffic signs.
Avoid highways, expressways and interstates. This one should be obvious, but just in case!
Tips for Drivers
Slow down! When you’re upset about a bike rider blocking your way, you may want to speed past them, but slowing down can save a life. In fact, a study in the UK showed that a pedestrian is eight times more likely to be killed by a car when struck at 30 mph when compared to 20 mph.
Keep in mind the 3 feet rule. Many states have laws in place that states 3 feet is the motorist’s minimum legal distance for safely passing cyclists. If you have extra room and there is no oncoming traffic, you may want to give the cyclists more room as you pass! Make sure that you are safely passing a cyclist, with a clear path from oncoming traffic and no road obstacles.
Be aware. Focus your attention away from distracting items like the radio or your cell phone and keep your eyes on the road.
Treat a bicycle like any other vehicle. Again: bicycles are considered road vehicles just like any other car on the road. Bicyclists should follow the same traffic patterns, but cars should also treat them like other vehicles on the road and give them the appropriate right of way.
Be extra cautious around child bicyclists. No, a child probably isn’t biking to work every day, but if you’re in a neighborhood you may see a child riding their bike nearby their house or on the sidewalk. This is a time to be extra cautious, as a child on a bike can be unpredictable, hard to see because of their size and unfamiliar with traffic laws.
With a firm grasp on the rules and regulations for both bicyclists and drivers, everyone can safely share the roads and make this a great spring and summer!