Car Drivers Versus Road Bikers
by: Jeff Haug

Granted, most people reading this already know what to do and what not to do when approaching a bike commuter while driving, but in case this falls into the hands of someone who does drive and doesn't bike...please take note of these suggestions.

Bike commuters are killed, more frequently in large inner cities, most often by driver error. This has not been a large problem in Indiana due to the small number of bike commuters. In the near future though, the city has planned to make Indianapolis very bike-friendly, which will increase the bike commuter and car confrontation ratio drastically. If the bike plan is to work safely, it is mainly the responsibility of drivers to accommodate to cyclists instead of cyclists looking out for drivers.

Let's face it, cars are huge speeding masses of metal, while bikes are generally carbon fiber and fragile, not usually reaching normal driving speeds. The damage a car can do compared to the damage a bike can do is not even comparable. If a bike commuter decides to run a red light into the path of an oncoming car, the biker will most likely be killed, and worst-case scenario for the car would result in a commuter lodged into the front windshield. We want neither of these incidences to occur of course. It does show though, the consequences for both travelers. This is not exactly the scenario I'm expecting between drivers and riders in the future. What I am worried about, and happens to me about every time I ride home from work, is the careless driving habits I encounter which put me in very dangerous situations. If you drive please remember these suggestions when you encounter a bike on the street.

First off...always know that, by law, bikes have all the rights and responsibilities of drivers. Therefore, do not get frustrated that a bike commuter is using the street instead of the sidewalk. Sidewalks are not reliable transportation routes due to constant ending and starting, curbs, broken cement, etc.

Never ride extremely close to the back of a biker in order to get them to speed up or move out of the way. This first frightens the rider and throws off their confidence while riding which can lead to worse accidents. Bikes can stop on a can't. If a rider has to stop very quickly, the car definitely won't be able to stop in time, and that can get ugly.

After passing a rider, do not swerve in front of them in frustration. A car is big and the driver may not always be able to tell how close they are to the rider. The slightest touch of a car to a bike will most certainly end up with the rider being knocked off the bike...this is NOT good.

Whether you are behind a bike commuter or passing them...DO NOT HONK AND/OR YELL. It makes you look like a total jerk and can scare the crap out of the rider. It's the same rule that applies to horses, you don't want to spook them. When a loud noise scares a rider, they get jolted, and the bike will jolt with them. It's not fun losing control of your bike because a driver thinks it's a funny joke. (On a side note, biking raises the adrenaline level, therefore bikers have more courage while riding. Due to my adrenaline levels, I tend to get very angry when scared and will chase after a car that honks or yells at me. I haven't caught one at a light yet...but that day will come. *evil laugh* and who knows what will happen when I catch them...oh yeah, and I carry mace.)

Drivers should take notice that riders usually don't ride pressed up against the curb. There is a good reason for this. It is best not to give drivers any surprises while riding in the street. Don't swerve out in front of them for any reason. Therefore riders will ride out from the curb so as not to lose balance and bounce into the curb and then out in front of a car. It also helps to avoid all the sewage drains that stick out from the curb. Just drive patiently and pass the rider in the other lane when there is a chance. I don't think anyone at the meeting will mind that you are late 3 extra seconds because of a bike. They should get over it.