Albuquerque has been named a Bronze-level Bicycle Friendly Community by the League of American Cyclists. According to the American Community Survey (ACS) Commuter Statistics of 2009, Albuquerque has 300 miles of bike lane and path—ranking #7 in the entire nation!
Being a bike-friendly city means lots of road miles must be shared between cars and trucks and smaller foot-powered, two-wheeled vehicles. That’s no problem, as long as both drivers and riders take their road responsibilities seriously.
Sharing the Road with Bicyclists: Driver Responsibilities
The New Mexico Driver Manual recognizes bicycles as vehicles, giving them the same responsibilities and privileges as cars. That means that car and truck drivers need to treat them as they would any other motor vehicle, which includes:
- Allowing bicycles to use the full lane, particularly when there are “sharrows” painted in the lane or any time you recognize road hazards on the right side of the street that would not allow a bicycle rider to safely rider there.
- Keeping a safe distance—ideally, at least five feet—between you and a bicycle and rider when passing.
- Treating a bicycle as any other slow-moving vehicle by:
- Providing the rider extra time and space to merge
- Allowing the rider to use turn lanes
Because bicycles and cars may often share lanes, it’s especially important to watch carefully for bicyclists approaching on your right before you make a right turn.
Also, be extra careful when you see bicycle riders who are children. They may not be as in-control of their vehicle as an adult rider and may make sudden and/or erratic movements. As the driver of a larger, deadlier vehicle, you have the heavier burden of caution!
Sharing the Road with Motorists: Rider Responsibilities
Bicyclists share the responsibility of keeping roads safe when sharing with motor vehicles. Because bicycles are considered vehicles, riders must obey all traffic laws, just like any other car or truck driver. That means bicyclists must:
- Obey all traffic signals—lights, stop signs, lane markings, etc.
- Travel in the same direction as traffic and use appropriate turn lanes
- Use hand and arm signals to communicate stops and turns
- Use a bright headlight and rear red light or reflector at night
Since bikes are so much smaller than cars and trucks, they are often easy to lose sight of in traffic. To increase their visibility and take proper safety precautions, bicyclists should also:
- Wear bright (preferably) reflective clothing (and not just at night…any time you’re sharing the road)
- Wear a fitting helmet, which should be replaced after any impact
- Ride predictably—in a straight line, not weaving in and out of cars or on the sidewalk
New Mexico Cycling is right: Cyclists fare best when they act and are treated as drivers of vehicles. If everyone takes responsibility for their vehicles, their movements and the safety of everyone on the road, we can prevent injury (or worse).
Drive and ride safely, ABQ!