If you are a cyclist, where should you ride your bike? On the street? On the sidewalk? On a trail? Where?
This is an important bike safety question and one that has been on the mind of Virginia bike crash attorney Doug Landau. Landau, an avid athlete and cyclist himself, recently represented a cyclist who was injured after being struck by a van while crossing an intersection with a green light. During depositions for the trial, the question of where a biker should be came up.
Landau was reminded of an excellent piece posted a couple of years ago on Reston Patch by Bruce Wright, the founder of Fairfax Advocates for Better Bicycling (FABB). In his post, Wright reminds readers that cyclists should be riding in the street, and following the rules of the road. Motorists need to share the road.
He confronts the question many motorists may ask: why can’t cyclists stay on the sidewalks and trails? Wright points out that
- Trails, although lovely, don’t really lead the rider to many useful destinations.
- Sidewalks are for pedestrians, meaning a cyclist poses a danger to those walking.
- In many places bike riding on the sidewalk is actually illegal.
So what is the answer?
Wright writes: “According to Virginia law, bicyclists ride ‘as far right as practicable.’ This means that if the lane is wide enough to share with a motorist and there are no obstacles in the road, cyclists should ride to the right, allowing enough room for maneuvering. It does not mean riding adjacent to the curb. This is dangerous, especially if the lane is not wide enough to share with a motor vehicle, but even very experienced cyclists make this mistake.”
A lane needs to be about 14 feet wide in order for it to be comfortably shared by a car and a bike. Most lanes are 11-12 feet wide and do not allow true sharing. In that case, cyclists should ride at a safe distance from the curb, where they are more visible and less likely to get squeezed into the curb. Motorists should pass a cyclist only when it is possible to do so safely, either by moving into an adjacent lane, or passing when legally permitted.
Landau urges all users of the road — cyclists, motorists, motorcyclists, pedestrians, etc. — to be patient, respectful of everyone’s right to be on the road and, most importantly SAFE!