Understanding Why the Conflict Exists
Bicyclists must negotiate increasingly congested automobile traffic on today’s under-maintained roadways and are at a higher risk than ever of being injured or killed, regardless of who is at fault. Arising from the proximity of bikes and autos to one another on the road is a mutual mindset of entitlement and resentment. Drivers don’t want to give bicyclists, or as the NTHSA calls them, “pedalcyclists” the equivalent amount of space they normally give to motorized vehicles, and pedalcyclists don’t feel that they are subject to the same rules of the road as motorized vehicles. Under these circumstances, a slight lapse of attention or act of aggression can be disastrous.
Naming the Aggressor
Bicycle/auto accidents have been studied thoroughly by the NHTSA, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration and show that 46% of these accidents were the fault of the pedalcyclist, and 54% were due to driver carelessness. Pedalcyclists who collide with an automobile after executing a maneuver without signaling, or who fail to visually scan for hazards can be killed just as brutally as one who is struck by a reckless or aggressive driver. It is not uncommon for the actions of both the driver and the pedalcyclist to contribute to a collision.
Share the Road
One of the activities the NHTSA has initiated is to research “countermeasures” that it feels will decrease bicycle/auto incursions on the road. Government expenditures to add bike lanes and “bicycle only” restrictions have been shown to be ineffective in that they do not add space to already tight roadways. Since the majority of collisions involve “behavioral factors” such as sub-normal attention, distraction, or aggression, researchers are now focusing on education for drivers and pedalcyclists. All drivers are required to pass a written and road test before receiving their licenses. More instruction in being alert for pedalcyclists can be provided there. You can lower your auto insurance rates by attending driver refresher and safety courses where more attention to pedalcyclists can be emphasized. There may come a day when schools may include a section during physical education where this will be addressed.
Co-existence Does Not Have to Hurt
When people replace behavior such as aggressive and careless driving with driving habits that increase fuel economy, such as driving slower and being more observant of traffic patterns to avoid frequent braking and accelerating, society is improved two ways: less gas is wasted and fewer lives are lost. For the mature pedalcyclist, conducting yourself responsibly and according to the rules of the road can make your journey safer and more enjoyable.