As a League of American Bicyclists Certified Cycling Instructor, I teach that bicycles are vehicles. In most states, if you’re riding a bicycle on a street or highway, you have the same rights and responsibilities as the driver of any other vehicle.
I didn’t always know this. In fact, when I first started riding again in 2011 I never gave it any thought. This only changed when I took Traffic Skills 101, the League’s required prerequisite for cyclists who want to become LCIs. If I didn’t know it, chances are a lot of other people don’t know it either…especially people who never ride bicycles.
This is why I was so happy to see that KSL, one of Utah’s largest media outlets, published a thoughtful story that explains the rules of the road to cyclists and motorists alike. You can read the story here.
KSL doesn’t mince words or dodge the issue. They come right out and say it in language that is unmistakable.
- Bicycles are VEHICLES.
- Bicyclists have a RIGHT to use the road.
- Bicyclists have a right to use the FULL LANE.
- Motorists MUST share the road. It’s not optional.
- Bicyclists MUST follow traffic laws…also not optional.
I’ve noticed that more than a few motorists justify aggressive behavior against cyclists by claiming that we don’t follow the rules of the road…as if they do. In reality, I suspect that roughly the same percentage of cyclists break the law as do motorists. We should stop…not only to take the argument away from these people, but also because we have the most to lose in a car-bicycle crash. It makes sense for us to be more defensive and it all starts with following the rules of the road, even those that unduly burden us.
But we should also not be shy about exercising our right to take the lane when it makes sense to do so. Why? Because it’s safer. When I’m riding down hills on Ogden’s East Bench, I’m moving fast and I’m more visible in the center of the lane than I would be if I was next to the shoulder. When I’m climbing Skyline Drive, the shoulder is narrow and I’m huffing and puffing. If I’m too close to the edge of the road, people behind me will try to squeeze through. It’s better to stay in the middle of the lane so that motorists have to wait until it’s clear to pass.
As a cyclist, the last thing in the world I want to do is slow somebody down but I’m not willing to put my life at risk so that somebody else can save five seconds. I understand that my bicycle is a vehicle. I know what is expected of me. KSL’s story will allow others to better understand as well. This is good.
Bicycles are vehicles. We belong. Spread the word.