Sharing the Road with Bicyclists

by Beth Brainard,
Executive Director Naples Pathways Coalition

It is frightening and often frustrating to encounter a large group of bicyclists, or peloton, when you are driving. No one wants to crash and everyone wants to get where they’re going as quickly as possible.

Here some tips for sharing the road with groups of bicyclists. • Don’t be rattled if you hear a lot of shouting. Group riders are not yelling at you (most of the time). It is how they communicate to each other that there is debris in the road, that a stop sign is coming, or that a car is approaching. The message begins with the one rider and is repeated – in a loud voice – by each following rider down the line or up the line depending upon the circumstances.

  • Don’t be offended if you see hand gestures. Group riders’ hand signals are not meant for you (most of the time). They are indicating to their fellow riders that they are turning or stopping, or they are pointing out something dangerous on the street.
  • Don’t be intimidated by the outfits. Serious cyclists, just like serious golfers or swimmers, wear gear that is functional and protective. The spandex shorts and tops create the least amount of wind resistance; the helmets, gloves, and dark shades protect against falls, blisters, and sun; and the bright colors ensure that bicyclists are visible to motorists. When you encounter bicyclists in the coffee shop and their shoes go “clickity-clickity” when they walk, it is because there are clips on the bottom that fasten to the pedals for more powerful pedaling. See, not so scary after all.
  • Do treat bicycles on the street the same way you would treat a car. It is legal for bicycles to operate on the street, and when they do they have the same rights and legal obligations as cars.
  • Do provide at least three feet of room when passing bicyclists. This is a law in Florida. If the lane is too narrow to pass safely, wait until the adjoining lane is clear to pass.
  • Do expect the unexpected. For example, bicycles will move out of the bicycle lane to avoid debris. A vehicle as small as a bike cannot drive over a piece of muffler without crashing.
  • Do check for bicyclists before making a right turn and don’t turn in front of them.
  • Do treat a bicycle or bicycles turning left in the lane like you would any other slow moving vehicle. Don’t attempt to pass in the turn.
  • Remember when you are parked on a curb to check for bicyclists before opening your door on the traffic side. Ouch!
  • Don’t be surprised when some pelotons break traffic laws. Who doesn’t?

Seriously, there is a growing movement among local bike clubs that sponsor group rides to educate their members about the traffic laws. Southwest Florida Cyclists and Naples Velo are conducting riding skills workshops and emphasizing safety and etiquette before each of their rides.

Naples Pathways Coalition is working with the City of Naples and the Collier County Sheriff’s Office on educational programs about traffic laws for motorists, bicyclists, and law enforcement officers.

Conditions are improving in the greater Naples area, but more work needs to be done to make this community safe for ALL users of the roadways. In the meantime, both motorists and bicyclists can contribute to making our community more bikeable and drivable by employing common sense and common courtesy on the roads.

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