Different but Equal – Motorists & Cyclists Share the Road
June 1, 2017
Early June brings many things in Nebraska: warmer temperatures, fewer rain clouds, an uptick in mosquitoes, and the 37th annual Bicycle Ride Across Nebraska. Close to 600 cyclists will be riding a north-south route around the eastern portion of the state, camping overnight in several cities and riding anywhere from 12-112 miles per day.
Roadway safety is everyone’s responsibility. What’s the best route to get to where you are going? Read on!
Rules of the Road
According to Nebraska law, cyclists must follow the same rules of the road as motorists. This makes a rider’s motions predictable to drivers and increases the safety for everyone on the streets and highways.
“We’re out here to share the road, not own it,” says Wes Galusha, director of BRAN. He says that cycling is just an alternative form of transportation, one that deserves as much respect as driving a car or walking to work.
Sarah Johnson, owner of the Omaha Bicycle Company, puts it another way: remove the car or the bike, and all that’s left is a member of the community “out there trying to get around.” As she tells new cyclists, “Drive your bike.”
Al Roeder has been commuting by bicycle since 1973, and is the only cyclist to ride in every BRAN event. Adhering to the rules of the roads means drivers and cyclists will both be on the same page, he says. “Drivers expect traffic to flow in a particular way” and meeting those expectations as a cyclist helps to ensure everyone’s safety.
Nebraska law also states that drivers must maintain a safe distance of at least three feet when passing a bicyclist. Cyclists, in turn, are required to allow space for faster traffic.
Data from the Department of Transportation shows that more than 800 cyclists died from crashes with motor vehicles in 2015; less critical injuries are commonplace and a constant worry for cyclists.
“More often than never is way too often,” Sara Johnson says of motor vehicle-related injuries. She notes that drivers in too much of a hurry are often a cyclist’s biggest hazard. “Impatience – it’s definitely what ends up killing people.”
Wes Galusha points out that a motorist’s reaction time is usually far quicker than a cyclist’s: “When you come up behind us, you can pass us easier than we can move over.”
Motorists should always be attentive on the road ahead and keep their eyes open for reflectors and lights. A little patience will go a long way in making sure everyone gets where they’re going, and don’t forget to leave three feet of space on passing!
“You’re the ambassador.” That’s something Wes Galusha hopes all cyclists on the road understand. Galusha and other cycling advocates would like to see a culture of mutual respect on a community’s roadways, but that has to go both ways.
There’s a difference between the rights and the responsibilities of a cyclist, says Sarah Johnson. While cyclists may have the right to share a busy highway with motorists, she also cautions people to be sensible about their routes and take the safety of themselves and their communities into consideration.
Al Roeder has a word of caution for cyclists when it comes to a collision with a vehicle: “Physics is not on your side.” Riding anything with two wheels requires more attention to one’s surroundings, and it’s important to ensure drivers can see you, too. Nebraska law requires cyclists to use front lights and rear reflectors, at a minimum, in low light situations.
Both Johnson and Roeder also note that maintenance is important in cycling safety: make sure your brakes function correctly, that your tires are properly inflated, and check your bike for issues. Johnson suggests cleaning your bike regularly (to increase familiarity with it) and developing a good relationship with a trustworthy bike shop.
For more information on the rules and regulations surrounding bicycling in Nebraska, check out the NDOR bicycle guide and the Nebraska Legislature’s website: