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Roadway Rapport: Tips for Safely Sharing the Streets with Cyclists

Understand your role as a motorist when sharing the road with bicyclists

Tips for Safely Sharing the Streets with Cyclists

Ah, sharing the road with a bicyclist: There’s one person protected by a helmet vs. a giant metal machine with you inside.

It’s a pretty big mismatch, and it requires a lot of patience, skill and awareness on your part to keep that cyclist safe. Unfortunately, in the U.S., more than 130,000 bicyclists get injured in road crashes every year, and nearly 1,000 die.

You can be part of the solution. Here are a few things to keep in mind as you navigate the nuances of sharing a roadway with riders with insights from Neal Stansbury, MD, an orthopedic surgeon with Lehigh Valley Orthopedic Institute. In addition to his work with patients, Dr. Stansbury is Medical Director for Valley Preferred Cycling Center in Trexlertown, Pa., and also is a competitive cyclist. He recently won gold and silver medals at the 2023 World Transplant Games held in Perth, Australia.

On the move

It turns out “Share the Road” isn’t just a request. It’s a law. Always:

  • Share lanes: “Bicyclists should use bike lanes when they are available,” Dr. Stansbury says. “But if there isn’t one, you must share your lane with the rider.” If the lane is too narrow, cyclists are entitled – and encouraged – to “take the lane” by riding in the middle.
  • Give space: Whether you’re sharing the lane or you’re passing, give cyclists enough room to be safe. In Pennsylvania, the law says it’s your responsibility as a driver to give bicycles 4 feet of space.
  • Pass safely: “When it’s safe to drive around a cyclist, use the same caution you would when passing another vehicle,” he says. In Pennsylvania, you may pass cyclists even in a no-passing zone – as long as you give them 4 feet of space.
  • Turn with awareness: Before turning, look – really look – all around you. Cyclists are less visible and can enter your blind spot easily.

When you’re parking

Even if you’re slowing or stopped, you need bicycle awareness. Make it a habit to:

  • Be alert in lots: With all the turning and backing out in a small space, it can be tough to see cyclists.
  • Go Dutch: After parking, use the hand that’s farthest from your door to grab the handle. Your body will turn, so you can look for cyclists who might be hit by your door if you open it. This is called the Dutch reach.

What’s with side-by-side riding?

Cyclists are often encouraged to ride single-file. But in many states, including Pennsylvania, it is legal to ride two abreast, or side-by-side, if it’s safe.

Lehigh Valley Orthopedic Institute

Lehigh Valley Orthopedic Institute

The region’s leader in joint, spine and orthopedic care gets you moving again.

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