Posts Tagged ‘Share the road’

AAA says, “Share the Road with Bicyclists”

Sunday, May 16th, 2010

The Automotive Association of America (AAA) has issued this press release that is difficult to criticize. Will they stand behind Michigan’s Complete Streets legislation?

AAA Encourages Motorists to Share the Road with Bicyclists

America’s largest motor club promotes careful commuting whether your ride has two wheels or four

WASHINGTON, May 3 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ — May is National Bike Month and with a growing number of bicyclists on roadways, AAA encourages all motorists to respectfully share the road with cyclists. Most Americans continue to ride bikes for recreation, but many people use their bikes as a means to commute to work, improve their physical health and to reduce their overall carbon footprint. In recognition of National Bike Month, AAA reminds both motorists and cyclists to be vigilant about sharing the road, and to exercise caution year round.

“It’s important for roadway users to remember that cyclists are granted the same rights and are expected to obey the same laws as motorists,” says Jake Nelson, director, AAA Traffic Safety Policy and Research. “AAA appreciates the continued efforts of stakeholders and transportation officials towards making roads safer for motorists and cyclists alike.”

As May’s warmer weather lures more cyclists onto roadways, AAA urges motorists to exercise exceptional caution when approaching bicyclists with whom they share the road, and offers the following tips:

  • Allow three feet of passing space between your car and the cyclist. Tailgating or honking can startle or fluster a bicyclist, causing them to swerve further into the driving lane.
  • Be patient. Remember, cyclists are moving under their own power and can’t be expected to go the same speed as cars.
  • Pay special attention to blind spots. Due to their size and the location of bike lanes, bikes can often get lost in a car’s blind spot, so double check before changing lanes, making right-hand turns or before opening your car door on the traffic side when parked.
  • Be attentive on side streets and neighborhoods. Children are especially at risk in residential areas. Follow the speed limit, avoid driver distraction and always be aware of your surroundings. It is particularly important to be cautious when backing out of a driveway and onto the street.
  • Use good common sense. For example, in inclement weather, give cyclists extra room.

As North America’s largest motoring and leisure travel organization, AAA provides more than 51 million members with travel, insurance, financial and automotive-related services. Since its founding in 1902, the not-for-profit, fully tax-paying AAA has been a leader and advocate for the safety and security of all travelers. AAA clubs can be visited on the Internet at

Same Roads, Same Rights, Same Rules — not true

Thursday, January 7th, 2010

There’s a popular bumper sticker that says “Same Roads, Same Rights, Same Rules.”

It sounds good, but it’s clearly not true and often not even desirable..

During an internet discussion about making drivers more aware of bicyclists’ rights, someone suggested having a required question for those renewing their driver’s licenses: Do bicyclists have the same rights to the roads as drivers?

They thought the answer was “Yes”, but they were mistaken.

Similarly, some have said bicycle advocates shouldn’t pursue rolling stop or vulnerable user legislation because it would make cyclists a separate group. Too late. We are a separate group despite what the bumper sticker implies.

Same Roads?

Michigan Bicyclists have access to nearly all of Michigan’s roads, but there are major exceptions including all limited-access expressways and ramps, such as I-75 and M-14. The tunnel and bridge between Detroit and Windsor are not open to bicyclists either.

And of course you can ride a bike on state trunkline M-185 but you can drive on it. That’s the road around Mackinaw Island.

Same Rights and Rules?

While bicyclists have similar rights as motorists while on the roadway, there are limitations. We must ride to the far right where practicable. We cannot ride on limited-access expressways. We have no special privileges in funeral processions.

Bicyclists do have rights that motorists do not. We can generally ride on the sidewalk and in crosswalks unless prohibited by a local ordinance. We can park on sidewalks. Turning vehicles must yield to us in a crosswalk. We can ride two abreast. We can ride in bike lanes and on shared-use paths.

We don’t need a driver’s license, registration or proof of insurance. We can’t get points on a driver’s license.

State law also allows local governments to further regulate bicycle use.

When bicyclists are not on a roadway, they no longer have to follow vehicle rules. This is why it’s legal for bicyclists to travel on shoulders or unused parking lanes, whereas vehicles cannot.

And of course, in Michigan bicycles are not vehicles. Bicycles are devices. As a result, bicycles are generally not burdened by vehicle regulations. For instance, it’s legal for cyclists to run studded tires.

A better bumper sticker

A more accurate slogan, and one we’ve seen on the back of Windsor Transit buses is “Share the Road — It’s the law.”

This message can be reinforced with “Share the Road” signs as well.

Bicyclists are a special class and rather than advocate against it, we should advocate for regulations that encourage more cycling and safer places to ride.

Additional Reading: One Surprising Reason America Lags Behind the World on Bikes

Cyclists subsidize Motorists

Tuesday, December 23rd, 2008
Detroit 1905: A Mural at the Detroit Public Library

Detroit in 1905, a mural at the Detroit Public Library. This is 21 years before Michigan's first gas tax.

Most cyclists have heard or read it before: bicyclists shouldn’t have equal access to the roads because they don’t pay for them.

Those making that claim assume that fuel tax and vehicle registrations pay for all their road costs.

They’re wrong.

Perhaps the definitive report comparing the total costs of using the roads is Whose Roads? Defining Bicyclists’ and Pedestrians’ Right to Use Public Roadways by Todd Litman of the Victoria Transport Policy Institute (2004).

Although motorist user fees (fuel taxes and vehicle registration fees) fund most highway expenses, funding for local roads (the roads pedestrians and cyclists use most) originates mainly from general taxes. Since bicycling and walking impose lower roadway costs than motorized modes, people who rely primarily on nonmotorized modes tend to overpay their fair share of roadway costs and subsidize motorists.

The automotive industry sponsored reports in the past have claimed motorists overpay their fair share.  According to Litman, these reports conveniently ignore some substantial road costs.  He concludes:

Virtually all studies that use appropriate analysis procedures conclude that motorists significantly underpay the costs they impose on society (FHWA, 1997; Delucchi, 1998; Litman, 2004a).

Some of those ignored costs are external.  One example is all the free vehicle parking.  All taxpayers and consumers pay for that through higher taxes and higher product costs. ran an interesting article that describes this external cost in greater detail.

To Donald Shoup, a professor of urban planning at UCLA, parking requirements are a bane of the country. “Parking requirements create great harm: they subsidize cars, distort transportation choices, warp urban form, increase housing costs, burden low income households, debase urban design, damage the economy, and degrade the environment,” he writes in his book, “The High Cost of Free Parking.”

Americans don’t object, because they aren’t aware of the myriad costs of parking, which remain hidden. In large part, it’s business owners, including commercial and residential landlords, who pay to provide parking places. They then pass on those costs to us in slightly higher prices for rent and every hamburger sold.

There’s also another great summary of this very same topic on the St. Louis Regional Bicycle Federation web site.

Sharing Public Roads with Bicyclists

Monday, November 24th, 2008

At 11 PM on March 6th, 1896, Charles B. King drove the first gasoline-powered automobile in Detroit — and perhaps the first in Michigan.

He shared the road with a bicyclist.

And it’s been that way ever since.  Cars and bikes have the same access to all of Michigan roads except for the Interstates.

Despite what some motorists may think, they are not offered any priority under the law.  They may be annoyed with having to share the road.  They may have to endure slight delays on occasion.  They may think cyclists should ride on sidewalks, which is much less safe.  [In fact in some cities like Royal Oak, it’s against local ordinance for adults to ride a bicycle on the sidewalk.]

But on the grand list of inconveniences motorists encounter on our roads, items like traffic slowdowns, construction delays, train crossings, school buses, and inclement weather rank near the top — not cyclists.

Even so, the bottom line is our public roads need to be shared.  That’s how it’s always been and that’s the law.

So who was the bicyclist that King first shared the road with?  It was a lanky 32-year old mechanical engineer named Henry Ford, who would drive his own first car three months later.