Bicycle Safety

Motorists—please share the road

Most Americans support the creation of communities that are safe for bicycling and walking. How you drive around town makes a big difference in bicycle and pedestrian safety.

When you pass a bicyclist on the street, remember:

  • By Missouri state and local law, bicyclists are allowed to use the road. By law, bicyclists have the same rights and duties as other vehicle drivers.
  • When passing cyclists, common sense and standard traffic law says that "Drivers shall pass at a safe distance." Squeezing past is simply unsafe — no matter if you are passing a bicycle, a pedestrian, or a motor vehicle.

Good road design allows autos and bicyclists to cooperate with little friction. But many of our Missouri roads are not the best, and that requires a little bit of patience from everyone.

Please use special care around young cyclists and pedestrians

Young cyclists and pedestrians present a special challenge for drivers. Remember that young people are far safer, both for themselves and for others, on a bicycle or on foot rather than behind the wheel of a car.

  • Young bicyclists are frequently unpredictable. Approach such cyclists at a safe speed and leave an extra distance between yourself and the cyclist for safety. Remember how you rode when you were that age - you probably weren't very predictable, either!
  • Young cyclists (and pedestrians) often emerge unexpectedly from behind parked cars or from driveways and side streets. They might be over the top of a hill or around a curve. Slow down and expect to see people walking or cycling at any time on any city street.
  • Be especially cautious and reduce speed at dusk, when many pedestrians and cyclists are out and it is very difficult to see them.
  • If you see a young pedestrian or cyclist, slow down. If you see one young person, there are likely several more nearby that you haven't seen—yet.

Cyclists — following common-sense traffic rules increases your safety many times

Safety depends on how you ride, not where. Millions enjoy bicycling in traffic throughout their lives without collision or trouble. The safest cyclists have taught themselves to cooperate with other drivers by using all the rules of the road:

  • Stop. Stop and yield to cross traffic before entering a road from a driveway or sidewalk. Stop at stop signs. Stop when you have the red at traffic signals. Motorists follow these rules because they make the streets safe and predictable for everyone — you should, too.
  • Be predictable and visible. Good drivers don't weave all over the road — neither should you.
  • Ride with traffic, never against it. Cycling against traffic is 5–20 times more dangerous than cycling with traffic.
  • Use arm signals. If you communicate with motorists they will cooperate with you.
  • Check traffic before merging or turning - just as car drivers do.
  • Wear a helmet. Your helmet is a lot like your seat belt in your car — wear it all the time as "insurance," but then drive so safely that you never need that insurance.
  • Lights on at dusk and wear light colored or reflective clothing. Motorists try to avoid hitting a cyclist they can see, but an unlighted bicycle at night is nearly invisible to motorists.

More about bike lights:

  • Reflectors are not enough. Reflectors don't help drivers approaching from the front or sides, because their headlights do not shine on your reflector.
  • "We have good streetlights in my area. I can see just fine when I'm riding. Why do I need bike lights?" Bike lights help you see better. But their main purpose is to help other drivers see you. Motorists are dazzled by their own headlights and can see surprisingly little by the light of streetlights.
  • The bike's front light is even more important than the rear light—more than 75% of bike-car accidents involve cars approaching from the front or sides.
  • Both front and rear lights are required by Missouri state law.
  • Inexpensive lights can be purchased at any store that sells bicycles.
  • Parents should know that about half of the young people seriously injured or killed in bicycle accidents in Missouri recently were riding after dark with no lights. Parents — don't let your kids ride at night without lights!

Done right, cycling is a quick, easy, healthful, and fun way to get from here to there.

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