Here's how to share the road with bikes

Steven Jordan, a division director for the state Department of Health and Human Services, was killed on July 4 in the afternoon while bicycling in the rightmost lane of Louisburg Road near Perry Creek Road in Raleigh. Louisburg Road at that location is three lanes in each direction, with driveways and traffic signals that result in slow or stopped vehicles. Delays are expected.
Jordan, 49, was struck from behind by a truck driver who told police that “...he was not able to move over into the center lane due to vehicles in that lane,” according to the police report. The police report also shows that his original speed was 35 mph and the speed at impact was the same 35 mph. Jordan, the bike rider, was estimated to be doing 15 mph.
Rather than slowing to the bicyclist’s speed – or slowing at all – the truck driver attempted to pass in the same lane at relatively high speed differential. Had the vehicle in front instead been a 15 mph car turning into or out of a driveway, or starting or stopping at a traffic signal, the truck driver would likely have used his brakes, slowing to that speed. Truck and other motor vehicle drivers do not try to pass other motorists within the lane. They change lanes to pass, or wait behind to avoid collision. Only bicycle drivers are subjected to the Squeeze Play.
Most of the time, motorists pass bicyclists with ample clearance, but that requires at least a partial lane change, straddling the lane line. So why not make a full lane change?
Too often, the pass is too close. How much passing clearance would you want if you were on a bicycle? Sometimes the Squeeze Play is tragically unsuccessful. Again, why not a full lane change as standard procedure?
If you or I drive a car or motorcycle, we enjoy the benefits of a full lane width of space around the vehicle. But if we choose to be the “engine” and drive a bicycle, there is an expectation to share the lane side-by-side with fast-moving wide vehicles driven by increasingly distracted drivers.
The only protection a motorcyclist or bicyclist has is the space cushion around him or her. There are no crumple zones and air bags. As the slowest drivers, bicycle users ought to have the most space cushion protecting them from faster vehicles, not the least.
North Carolina has ubiquitous yellow Share The Road signs, supposedly to warn motorists that bicyclists are using the road ahead. Given that official purpose, why don’t they instead say Expect Bicycle Traffic, or Watch for Bicyclists, or something equally simple and clear, as is required of a traffic control device?
Share The Road is sometimes misinterpreted to mean Share The Lane side-by-side, and as a message directed to bicyclists. When on two wheels, I’d much rather the sign said Change Lanes To Pass rather than have the occasional motorist yell “Share the road!” If motorists routinely changed lanes, bicycle users would not get struck from behind or sideswiped or be terrorized by the Squeeze Play.
Crumple zones crumble bones. The same metal exterior that protects and emboldens motorists is a danger to bicyclists. It’s easy to feel entitled to try the Squeeze Play and share the lane with a bicyclist when it’s not your skin in the game. To share the lane is to encroach on bicyclists’ space and right-of-way.
Let’s abandon this sign and paradigm and replace it with white regulatory Change Lanes To Pass signs.
For their part, bicyclists who don’t operate on the margins of the lane are less likely to be marginalized, obscured or overlooked. By controlling the lane like other vehicle drivers, bicyclists maximize their space cushion and reduce the risk of several different types of collisions. Some motorists won’t like this perceived audacity, while others will appreciate the predictability that is fostered.
When the Share The Road signs are replaced, the yellow bicycle icon warning signs could also be replaced – with Bicycles May Use Full Lane signs.
Bicyclists are not hazards requiring a warning sign; like other slow vehicle drivers, we are a normal and reasonable movement of traffic. We’re people going somewhere, just like you. Motorists can competently coexist with bicycle drivers or other slow traffic.
Wayne Pein is a bicycle driving advocate who lives in Chapel Hill.

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  1. You are right, but American and Canadian drivers are too stupid. I am giving up road biking, so that my two children keep a father. I will commute to work by bike in the city, where most drivers are aware we exist, and I am taking up mountain biking. I liked long distance road rides, but I love my children more.


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