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How to Safely Pass a Bicyclist

How to Safely Pass A Bicyclist - Some friendly advice for our motorist friends.

Written by: Hilary Angus for Momentum Mag

Edited by: Alice Charkes

1. Slow Down.

When you’re approaching a bicyclist, slow down. Passing a cyclist is going to require you to make a few more moves than just continuing on your course, so reduce your speed in order to prepare yourself.

2. Leave 4 feet of space between your car and the person cycling. This is Vermont law.

Bicyclists don’t always ride in a perfectly straight line, especially in places where they frequently need to swerve in order to avoid potholes, storm drains, cracks, or road debris. Leaving a minimum of 4 feet of space between you and the cyclist ensures they have room to swerve if need be, even when you’re right alongside them.

3. Signal, change lanes.

Unless there’s a solid shoulder, most roads in North America are not wide enough to safely pass a person on a bike while remaining in your lane. Most motorists’ workaround for this is to simply pass them unsafely. If you can’t give a cyclist a minimum of 4 feet of space while remaining in your lane, it is your responsibility to signal and change into the other lane, or at the very least to signal and briefly move into the other lane before coming back into your lane after passing the cyclist.

But what if you can’t swerve into oncoming traffic? Well….

4. Wait.

If you can’t pass the cyclist by a safe distance because of oncoming traffic or the inability to change lanes, then don’t pass them. It’s really that simple! Slow down and remain behind the cyclist until you can pass them safely. “But that’s absurd,” many may think. Sure, you might have to drive pretty slowly for a bit there, but hey, it just means you’ll only be around 32 seconds later in arriving at your next red light. Was that really so bad? And on the bright side, you didn’t kill anyone! A job well done.

5. Don’t honk or yell

This last step is not so much a “how-to” as a “how-not-to.” When you’re passing a cyclist, even by 4 feet and even going slowly, it’s generally appreciated if you don’t lay on your horn and yell obscenities at them, not least because that’s rude and discouraging, but also it’s incredibly startling! It could lead the cyclist to momentarily wobble which, in traffic, could be dangerous.

If you really feel the need to yell “Great bike, you’re awesome!” we’ll be more than happy to accept the compliment at the next intersection


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a few more

Thanks for these tips. I've read them over a few times and they are all good advice. Easy to do, too!

I'd add some more - stay aware as a driver. Don't get distracted with phones or other items - assume a bike, pedestrian, child or animal WILL run out at any moment.

Check in your mirrors, too, before the signaling and changing lanes. Be aware of your blind spot and make certain you aren't sliding into someone when moving over.

And, of course, consider skipping that car ride next time and walking or biking instead.


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