Drivers and Cyclists: Learning to Share the Road. Cyclists throughout Europe are generally welcomed and treated with respect due to the fact that generations of European drivers are accustomed to sharing their roadways with those on two wheels. Unlike drivers in the United States, European drivers expect and accept a cyclist’s right to share the road.
One of the reasons that European drivers tend to treat cyclists with such courtesy is that cycling has been integrated within their culture. Drivers are accustomed to watching out for children who ride their bikes to school, and adults riding to work are a familiar sight. Bicycles are a common mode of daily transportation for many Europeans, and their presence on the roadways is readily accepted by European drivers.
Europe’s Bike Culture
In Copenhagen, which is the most bike-friendly city in Europe, nearly half of its residents use bikes as their primary mode of transportation. This country offers one-way bike-only lanes that run adjacent to almost every road, and the lanes, which are for the exclusive use of cyclists, are not shared by vehicles or pedestrians. The bike lanes have their own turn lanes and traffic lights, and those in automobiles and pedestrians are expected to yield the right-of-way to those on bikes.
Europe’s bike culture has developed and evolved over generations, and they have been motivated by several important factors:
- The high cost of gasoline,
- The culture’s acceptance of people of all ages using their bikes as a primary mode of transportation,
- The prevalence of bike lanes and bike parking
Changing America’s Culture
Although cyclists in the United States do not currently receive the same degree of support as their European counterparts, there are signs that the U.S. is slowly moving toward a greater acceptance of bikes on our roadways. Minneapolis is currently ranked as the most bike-friendly city in the U.S. and is closely followed by San Francisco and Portland, Oregon. Americans are beginning to realize that biking contributes to a healthy lifestyle and it reduces the cost of commuting. City street bikeways, bike paths, off-street trails, and bike-sharing programs are rapidly being developed throughout the nation.
Changing America’s culture will require a lot of work because integrating a bike-friendly infrastructure in the U.S. that supports cyclists is going to require a new mindset. Americans will need to accept that those on 2 wheels have a right to be on our roads, and they will also have to acknowledge that biking supports everyone’s health, and the environment. Not only is the cyclist gaining the benefit of exercise, but they are protecting the environment and promoting the health of others by not adding pollutants to our atmosphere. As drivers begin to become accustomed to sharing the road, we will start to see more U.S. cities adding bike lanes, bike paths, and facilities that support cyclists.
According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, the number of traffic fatalities in the US is rising across most modes of transportation: auto driver, auto passenger, motorcyclist, pedestrian, and cyclist.
- From 2014-2016 pedestrians and cyclists experienced the greatest increases.
- There were 783 bicyclists killed in traffic crashes in the United States in 2017.
Lessons from the Road
The lessons to be learned by drivers and by cyclists is are simple ones:
- Pay attention to the road
- Be aware of all the vehicles around you
- Obey traffic signs
- Be courteous
- Respect those with whom you are sharing the road
- Assume cars do not see you
- Be safe
What most cyclists have learned during their years on the road is their presence on the road makes everyone safer because they are conditioning drivers to look out for cyclists. Drivers and cyclists need to support each other by making sure that their actions do not endanger others, and they need to be a part of this necessary cultural change.
If You Have Been Hurt in Bike Crash
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