By Dani Burlison
With the proliferation of free public bike-share programs in major cities like Austin, San Diego, Atlanta and Oklahoma City, there are a LOT of cyclists on the road these days—and you may be one of them! Bikers are out even in cold weather; they’re not going away anytime soon. Neither are commuters or drivers cruising old country roads over the weekend, enjoying the scenery from the comfy seats of a Chevrolet Malibu.
There are several ways that cyclists and drivers can peacefully co-exist while enjoying the open road—or braving congested city streets.
1. It’s important for both driver and cyclist to put things in perspective by acknowledging how vulnerable it feels on a bike when a giant chunk of metal flies past at a much higher speed. Cyclists should always wear helmets and be fully outfitted with bike lights, reflectors and even bright colors for increased visibility. Drivers should remember that just as they’re looking out for potential hazards, cyclists are working to avoid potholes, broken glass or other debris that you can’t see from the seat of a car.
2. People on bikes are entitled to the same rights and are subject to the same restrictions as someone in a car. This means they should always follow traffic rules, which may vary depending on location. In most places, cyclists are to be given three or more feet of space when being passed by a motorist. In some places, bikes are allowed on sidewalks and may either be walked or ridden when crossing the street. Both have the right to safety on the road and should always follow traffic laws.
3. Staying alert at all times is crucial to harmony on the road. This means looking over shoulders when switching lanes, watching for parked cars so as to not get “doored” (and drivers, always look before you open your car door!), checking the bike lane before exiting a parking lot, never using cellphones, headphones and always making eye contact to acknowledge one another. Friendly hand gestures and head nods contribute greatly to peaceful coexistence. The Malibu’s available Chevrolet MyLink* allows drivers to customize the system to best fit their needs, and keep their eyes and attention on the road. Make phone calls, select radio stations, choose music from your mobile device and more through voice command, touch-screen, center stack buttons and steering wheel-mounted controls.
4. A key element to ensuring safety is for both motorist and cyclist to always use turn signals or hand signals when turning to alert those around you. Cyclists should always be riding with the flow of traffic, and cars should be careful and alert when making turns. Watch for bikes behind you--on the street and the sidewalk-- while turning right and always give the right of way to an oncoming bike when waiting to make a left-hand turn.
5. Finally, both should remember to enjoy driving the new car or riding the new (or borrowed) bike into the New Year. Racing to pass a cyclist not only jeopardizes their safety, it can lead the motorist into oncoming traffic or worse. Honking at a person on a bike is a big no-no, and only increases the risk for a crash. Yes, it can be frustrating to wait for a slower, smaller set of wheels while rushing to the office or cruising out for a Sunday drive, but patience and an added awareness saves lives--and makes for a lovely day and a great New Year.
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Dani Burlison is a wannabe anthropologist who lives, writes, teaches writing workshops and entertains her children in Northern California.
*MyLink functionality varies by model. Full functionality requires compatible Bluetooth and smartphone, and USB connectivity for some devices.