May 20, 2014
Bike, cars can get along better
May 16 was Bike to Work Day, and thousands of two-wheeled commuters took to the road. The mere thought of a cyclist can start some drivers’ blood boiling, and cyclists, too, find themselves frustrated by inconsiderate motorists.
Bikes on the roads are here to stay, and indeed, if current trends hold, will be an ever-growing presence. More work must be done to help bikes and cars co-exist, and two of the biggest missing ingredients are predictability and education.
Drivers are generally clear on the rules that cars are supposed to follow. They often don’t, which leads to accidents, but they know what a car is supposed to do in a given situation.
Bikes are a different sort of animal. According to the whim of the rider, a bike can be either a vehicle or a pedestrian. Many motorists don’t realize that it’s perfectly legal for a biker to run up to a red light on the street, then decide they’re a pedestrian and cross against the red light — but with the pedestrian walk signal.
From one time to the next, a driver doesn’t know what a biker is going to do, and that is the cause of much of the frustration. There needs to be a clearer set of expectations for how a bike and a car are expected to interact, so that both drivers and cyclists can understand better what they are supposed to do.
It might make sense to develop a set of regulations specifically for bicycles, rather than the current system of allowing them to be governed by two different (auto and pedestrian) and sometimes contradictory sets of rules.
These laws could help clarify situations like those at a red light. Ideally, once each knows what the other is supposed to do, the new rules could reduce the hostility between the two groups.
After that, there must be better education. The state includes bike questions on the written portion of the driver’s test, but that doesn’t seem to be enough.
Clear rules and better education about them could be a step toward reducing everyone’s blood pressure.