How well do you drive near bicycle lanes?
I’ve read a lot recently how a variety of communities are putting in new bicycle lanes for cyclists. This is a good idea as it can help protect the cyclists from the high risks associated with traffic each time they ride on busy roads. I think the added pressure the cyclists have is when drivers of vehicles don’t fully understand how to drive near bicycle lanes, especially if the driver of a vehicle needs to make a right turn across the bicycle lane. How well do you know how to use them?
Since the bicycle lanes are reserved strictly for cyclists, the cyclist should be given right of way when ever they are riding in those lanes. As a driver of a vehicle, you should not be driving down these lanes. However, when the driver of a vehicle needs to make a right turn, they are allowed to enter the bicycle lane just prior to the intersection. Usually there’ll be a broken line section of the bicycle lane just before the intersection. The driver of the vehicle should signal their lane change early so cyclists behind them know their intentions. The driver should also follow all steps needed to make a lane change; especially with slow moving traffic.
The driver must yield to any cyclist they may interfere with prior to entering the bicycle lane before making their turn. This may mean that the driver should reduce their speed greatly until a cyclist or a row of cyclists pass the intersection and then move in behind the cyclists. Cutting off a cyclist just before the intersection and then having to stop to wait for a pedestrian may cause the cyclists to make a sudden move to avoid running into your vehicle. It may even cause the cyclist to injure themselves if they run into the back of your vehicle.
Using your short term memory is import before going into a bicycle lane. You’ll need to remember if you’ve just passed a cyclist before switching into the bicycle lane. Using your mirrors regularly and having a quick blind spot check will help you spot a cyclist approaching you from behind, especially if you’ve had to slow down tremendously for a pedestrian before making that turn.
If you have to stop and wait for a pedestrian or another cyclist before making your right turn, always check your right blind spot before moving. Another cyclist may be moving quickly toward you; between your vehicle and the curb or perhaps even riding along the sidewalk. A quick blind spot check will allow you to know if you can turn safely. Since the position of your vehicle may not allow you to use your side mirror, a blind spot check will be required.
Always remember that some cyclists are not drivers of motor vehicles. They may not be thinking like a driver and may not be looking out for the dangers from vehicles. It’s your job as a driver to look out for them. Working together means we can all ride and drive safely.