Save a Life: 3′

During the month of April I am staying with an active family during my remodel. This cycling family usually mountain bikes or racks up serious miles on a road bikes (triathletes, sheesh!) instead of my more purposeful trips. This weekend, while we did a mix of all kinds of rides on all kinds of bikes, I learned something: drivers slow down and pass me wider than they do other cyclists.

I don’t know if it because of my gender, because my trike is more visible, or because drivers think I am disabled; but the adult male cyclist in my group this weekend commented on how much safer it is to ride in front of me because the cars slow down and move over. Maybe that is why I take some heavily trafficked roads that he avoids (or dreads). I’m not complaining about the extra consideration, but think I should advocate on behalf of the non-female, non-trike cyclists on the road…

When you see a runner or cyclist on the shoulder or right side of the road, do you know the proper passing etiquette?  You should slow down and pass them with a safe distance. The definition of slow is less than 35 MPH and the definition of safe distance is over 3 feet (or one meter). In Tennessee, like most states, a minimum of 3′ is the law:

TCA 55-8-175 – Riding on Roadways and Bike Paths –  (c)  (1) This subsection (c) shall be known and may be cited as the “Jeff Roth and Brian Brown Bicycle Protection Act of 2007.”    (2) The operator of a motor vehicle, when overtaking and passing a bicycle proceeding in the same direction on the roadway, shall leave a safe distance between the motor vehicle and the bicycle of not less than three feet (3′) and shall maintain the clearance until safely past the overtaken bicycle. (d) A violation of this section is a Class C misdemeanor. 

What can you do?

  1. car passing cyclistSlow down and give travelers with less than four wheels (cyclists and runners) a nice wide safe margin when you pass them.
  2. Raise motorists’ awareness for the 3′ law. This site sells gear to raise awareness while biking, but you can post to social media and reach your network anytime. Frankly, some rednecks and idiots think it is funny to buzz past bikes. Let them know it doesn’t make them funny: it makes them assholes.
  3. If you happen to by this guy in London, you can use your GoPro to have the law enforced. You can find out the law in your state at this site.

yellow bumper sticker it's safer it's courteous it's the law

In Chattanooga, police officers on bicycles track the distance a motorist passes them using some relatively high-tech methods. I’m not sure it keeps all motorists safe, but the news coverage on the system may have made motorists generally more aware of the 3′ law.

In short, give bicyclists and pedestrians a safe margin of at least three feet when you pass them: it is the law!

Save a Life: Dutch Reach

I ended March on a bit of a campaign trail regarding bikes. I was pushing two programs via social media: “30 Days of Biking” and “The Dutch Reach“.

As most of my cycling peeps in our relatively not-bike-friendly small community probably predicted, the campaign did not end well. Only three other people in my town made the #30DaysofBiking pledge this year.

So I am settling for making April about personally biking daily and making the dutch reaching a habit.  Since I am living with a family during some remodeling, I’m widening my sphere of influence to them. When I can’t reach the community, I can start with my house.

You: Back up, The Dutch Reach?

Me: I’m so glad you asked!

Every year bicyclists and motorcyclists are injured when motorists open car doors in front of them.

The Dutch Reach is a simple way to save lives that everyone should practice. In countries (like the USA) where drivers sit on the left side of the car and drive on the right side of the road, drivers should open their car door with their right hand. This is not the most efficient exit: it causes you to twist as you “reach” for the door and you automatically see beside and behind you. In the USA, drivers should open their car doors with their right hand. Much like D.A.R.E and Smokey Bear programs in the USA, Dutch school children have been taught this method for 50 years!

Child on Bike swerving to miss open car door.

When you reach across your body to open the door, you are more likely to see a bicycle or motorcycle and less likely to open your door on them. You are also more likely to see a vehicle coming and not step out into an oncoming vehicle. The Dutch Reach saves injury and damage to your door!

You: I now know The Dutch Reach saves lives, but how cYellow ribbon tied on car door handlean I remember to use it?

Me: You are fighting years of muscle memory and programming. It will take Mindfulness and visual cues (tie ribbons on your door handles). Be patient with yourself and those in your car as you reprogram, but don’t give up! Lives may depend on it!

(1) Teach the Reach. Help your passengers remember to use this method too.

(2) Promote. The advocacy website for The Dutch Reach is already saving lives by promoting research, providing educational materials, and posting media that can be used by people like us on blogs like this. Click the link to find resources to spread the message on Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook.

Driver opening door with right hand and looking back.