I thought it would be fun to pull driver’s manuals from various states to see what new motorists are being taught about sharing the road with bicyclists. I decided to start with Indiana since that’s where I currently live. Information about bicycles can be found in Chapter 5 of the Indiana manual (download). Here it is, copied verbatim.
Drivers must routinely share the roadway with bicyclists. On most roadways,
bicyclists have the same rights and responsibilities as other roadway users.
Drivers should observe the following guidelines when sharing the roadway
• Drivers may pass a bicyclist when there is a safe amount of room beside
the bicyclist (three-foot minimum) and when there is no danger from
• Drivers must yield the right of way to a bicyclist just as they would to
• Bicyclists are prohibited on limited-access highways, expressways and
certain other marked roadways
• A bicyclist is not required to ride in a designated bike lane because they
have the right to use either the bike lane or the travel lane
• Avoid turning across the path of a bicyclist
• When a motorist is turning left and there is a bicyclist entering the
intersection from the opposite direction, the driver should wait for the
bicyclist to pass before making the turn
• If a motorist is sharing the left turn lane with a bicyclist, stay behind the
cyclist until he or she has safely completed the left turn
• If a motorist is turning right and a bicyclist is approaching on the right, let
the bicyclist go through the intersection first before making a right turn
After parking and before opening vehicle doors, a motorist should fi rst check
Bicycle paths and lanes shall be used exclusively for the operation of bicycles unless:
• Signage specifies joint use with pedestrians
• The driver is on official duty, such as delivering mail
Other rules for drivers or operators of any vehicle include:
• Do not drive in or park in bicycle paths or lanes, or place the vehicle in such a manner as to impede bicycle traffi c on such path or lane
• Yield the right of way to an individual operating a bicycle on a designated
bicycle path or lane
• Do not move into a bicycle path or lane in preparation for a turn
• Cross a bicycle path or lane only when turning or when entering or leaving an alley, driveway or private road
Sharrow markings are pavement markings of a bike with two arrows above it and are intended to help bicyclists position themselves away from parked cars and to alert other road users to expect bicyclists to occupy travel lanes.
There’s some interesting stuff here. For one thing, the manual advises motorists to give cyclists three feet when passing even though there is no statewide 3′ law in Indiana.
It also clearly states that cyclists are not required to use bike lanes but can use traffic lanes at their discretion. This is in direct conflict with the oft-shouted belief of some motorists that I should get on the bike path “where I belong.” Why do we prefer traffic lanes? It’s mostly a matter of safety. Many bike lanes are poorly engineered and hazardous to our health and well-being.
Most importantly, the manual clearly states that bicycles should treated just like any other vehicle. Yes, we’re slower, but so are trucks and buses.
I’m happy to see that the driver’s manual here addresses the issue of sharing the road in a fair and reasonable way. There’s nothing even slightly controversial about the paragraphs above. This is good.
Now I’d like to see the law enforcement community step up and throw the book at the small subset of motorists (and it really is a small minority) who think it’s okay to harrass and intimidate cyclists and pedestrians. These people need to be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law. When their behavior is determined to be malicious, they need to be banned from ever driving again. That’s how you change perceptions and make roads safe for all users.