Q: What kinds of strategies/ campaigns can we use to establish more respectful and safer road sharing by both cyclists and motorists? – Clemence Tatin-Jaleran
Proactive outreach by bicyclists can go a long way towards improving relations between cyclists and motorists. It’s easy to get a chip on our shoulders, but each of us is an ambassador and our actions both on and off the bike can have a huge impact.
Education and awareness campaigns do help, though there are a few instances when motorists interpret “Share the Road” as “bicyclists shouldn’t be hogging the road.” To avoid this problem, take a balanced approach by providing rules and tips for both motorists and bicyclists.
When I headed the Bicycle Coalition of Maine, we ended every message with “When we all follow the rules, it’s easy to share the road.” There are also many great existing public service announcements (PSAs) that you can adapt to your community. I particularly like BikeDenver.org’s fun “Don’t Suck” and “We Want to Save Your Car Door” PSAs for their humorous twist. Believe me, radio PSAs are an effective way of reaching driving motorists.
It’s even better to institutionalize awareness and education. Many organizations have been able to get bike safety information added to driver education handbooks and exams. A few have even been able to get it incorporated into the training of driver education instructors and police. Legislation, such as safe passing laws, can help raise awareness and improve enforcement. Start with bike safety education in schools – it has been proven that safe cyclists become safer drivers.
Physical reminders on the roadway can reinforce these educational efforts. “Share the Road” signage and sharrows on the pavement are great, but actual police enforcement goes a long way towards getting the attention of both bicyclists and motorists. Concentrated “sting” operations, when traffic laws for both bicyclists and motorists are enforced and fines are issued, can have a lasting impact. Utah has put undercover cops on bikes and had dedicated patrol cars pull over motorists who didn’t provide sufficient space between their automobiles and cyclists or who harassed cyclists.
Whether driving a bike or any other kind of a vehicle, we can all set a good example with our own behavior. If a motorist does wrong by you, it’s best to wave all five fingers (even if you mentally emphasize one). While it’s tempting to save a few seconds and jump a light, know that your patience and good example help set a virtuous circle into motion. After all, each of us is an ambassador ... and when we ALL follow the rules, it’s easy to share the road.
Jeffrey Miller is the president/ CEO of the Alliance for Biking & Walking, a coalition of nearly 200 state, provincial and local bicycle and pedestrian advocacy organizations across North America. Find out more about their resources, trainings and work at peoplepoweredmovement.org.
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