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COA Resources
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10 Reasons Why Bicyclists and Motorists have Trouble Coexisting

Many cities in the United States are now seeing increased bicycle traffic. With the difficult economy and high gasoline prices, there are more people choosing bikes as a primary transportation mode. This increase in leg-powered traffic, when combined with the already high levels of motor-powered traffic, can make for some conflict on the roadways. Let’s look at 10 reasons why bicyclists and motorists have trouble coexisting.

  1. Speed Difference. No matter how fast a bicyclist can peddle a bike, there is no competing with a motorized vehicle for speed. When you have vehicles moving at different speeds on the same roadway, there is going to be potential for conflict and danger of accidents.
  2. Visibility and Distractions. Because of the narrow profile presented by a bicycle and rider, they are more difficult for a motorist to see than are other motor vehicles. When this is combined with the distractions that some motorists allow themselves while driving, crashes and near-misses are often the result.
  3. Narrow Streets. Increased bicycle traffic coincides with a movement in some cities and neighborhoods toward what is called “traffic calming.” Among the methods used to encourage slower traffic are the narrowing of streets and addition of mild curves. This leaves little room for a motorist to pass a bicyclist, especially when there is oncoming traffic.
  4. Shunned Bike Paths. Oftentimes, slimmed down streets in a neighborhood are accompanied by the addition of paved bike paths. This is a wonderful idea for maintaining safety, if the bike paths are actually used by bicyclists. It seems that there are two issues involved that keep bikes off the paths. These will follow.
  5. Bicyclist Arrogance. Some that choose to ride bikes for transportation or physical conditioning are determined to exercise their right to ride the roadways, regardless of the existence of bike paths and narrowed streets. It has been noted that bicyclists taking this attitude are most often riding high-performance bikes and wearing the most expensive of cycling gear.
  6. Walkers and Casual Riders. Bike paths are often used by walkers as well as riders, and many of the conscientious bicycle riders that use bike paths are those that are in no hurry. This can cause impatient riders to take to narrow streets rather than have to deal with the slower moving obstacles on bike paths. There is some irony in this, as the higher speed riders now become the same sort of slower moving obstacle to motorists that walkers and slow riders are on the paths.
  7. Motorist Ignorance. There are some motorists that don’t understand how much space they are required to allow while passing a bike. Quite often, bicycle riders find themselves squeezed up against curbs or forced into yards and ditches, as cars and trucks pass without offering sufficient space between.
  8. Ignored Traffic Control. Some that ride bicycles appear to think that stop signs and traffic signals at intersections are only for motorists and walkers. This could fall into the Bicyclist Arrogance category above, but it really deserves its own slot on the list.
  9. Between Lanes. Bicyclists have the ability, because of their narrow profile, to pass between motor vehicles in adjacent lanes when traffic is slow or stopped on multi-lane streets. This has real potential to cause conflict and/or injury. Some motorists will not see a bicyclist approaching from behind, while others may be having a bad day and do something illegal to obstruct a rider’s progress.
  10. Mutual Antagonism. This brings us to the last and potentially most dangerous issue, between bicyclists and motorists, and the fault can be on either or both sides. Some motorists think bikes should only be allowed on sidewalks and bike paths, and they try to intimidate or startle cyclists. Some bicyclists think that everyone should either ride a bike or take a bus, and purposely do things to annoy or obstruct motorists. Either of these can end in injury or tragedy for all. Let’s chill, folks.

Perhaps after reading of these 10 reasons that bicyclists and motorists have trouble with coexistence, we’ll all be just a bit more aware and considerate of each other. At least, one can hope that is the case.

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