How can we avoid the top cause of bicycle death?
The common scenario is that a motorist instinctively moves to the left the moment they notice a cyclist. This pass is started too early, and the motorist persists, regardless of the surroundings. If the motorist squeezes through or is forced to return to the lane too early, the pass becomes dangerous.
If you see a cyclist on the road, AVOID the temptation to immediately start a haphazard pass.
- Remind yourself that the outcome of the situation is in your hands, and this interaction puts you at the highest risk of killing the cyclist.
- Slow as you approach the cyclist. Begin the pass from the cyclist’s rear at the same distance as from a car you would pass.
- Assess the situation. Ensure there’s enough room to the cyclist’s left (at least three feet from your car’s farthest point), and enough room in front of the cyclist for you to return to your lane. It will not always be safe or appropriate to pass. If it’s not safe, WAIT until it is.
- Move entirely into the left lane during the duration of the pass. Make your intentions clear by signalling every lane change.
These techniques are all demonstrated in the video below. Although a motorcycle is shown, the issue is universal to all small roadway users.
The Oregon Driver Manual states: “If you can not pass safely, you must slow down and remain behind the bicycle until it is safe to pass.”
Do not pass under these conditions:
- There is oncoming traffic;
- You cannot see clearly that there is no oncoming traffic;
- There is insufficient room to the left to conduct the pass;
- You are near an intersection, in a corner, on a hill, or in narrow neighborhood streets (where there are no center markings because the width of the road is less than two cars wide).
Another situation is an intentional close pass, designed to harass the cyclist. The following crimes can be charged: Assault IV, Menacing, Harassment, Reckless Driving, and Careless Driving. Bicycle and Pedestrian lawyer Ray Thomas recommends that victims prosecute the offending motorist, even if they are not hurt.