Going down this road is scarier than it has to be

I am by no means a cycling expert. In fact, I still consider myself very much a beginner. But in the short time I’ve spent chatting with people about cycling, I’ve noticed some misconceptions about the rules of the road.

I told Amy I wanted to write a blog post and she mentioned that her husband, Scott, is planning on giving a talk about cycling laws at Tailwind, the new bike shop in Fort Mill. Scott is a state trooper and a cyclist so I very much look forward to hearing him talk! I will post on here when the talk will be when it’s decided.

In the meantime, NPR held a segment yesterday about cycling in urban settings, and I listened closely. Check it out here if you missed it.

Cycling laws you may not be aware of:

= A bicycle is just like a vehicle. Bottom line. A cyclist has the same rights to be on the road that the motor vehicle driver does. In fact, some cycling advocates suggest taking up the entire lane so as to not be run off the road by a car. That is perfectly legal to do. Of course, it would likely anger drivers so it’s not necessarily the best thing to do. But if you’re in a car and you have to wait for traffic to clear in order to pass the cyclist who is kindly riding on the right side of the road or in the shoulder, keep in mind they have just as much right to be there as you do.

= Cyclists cannot ride on the sidewalks. Sidewalks are for pedestrians. If someone was cycling at a decent speed on a sidewalk, he/she could really injure a pedestrian and therefore should not be doing that.

= It is legal to ride two abreast on the road. Some cyclists choose to do this simply to keep safety first – making certain the road is entirely clear before a car goes around them. The more room a cyclist takes up, the more they “force” a driver to respect the bike as its own vehicle. As mentioned above, this could anger motorists. I’ve never ridden two abreast when there’s other traffic on the road, but I can see how it would feel much safer to do so.

= Helmets are only required for cyclists age 15 and younger in North Carolina. There is no law for bicycle helmets in South Carolina. I don’t know any cyclist who rides without a helmet, though – protect that head!

Bicycling Magazine released a list of the Top 50 cities in the US for cycling. Of course, Charlotte was not on the list.

In fact, as I write this I am preparing for my first group ride tonight. It’s the Annual Ride of Silence around the booty loop, and it’s in honor/memory of cyclists who have been injured or killed while cycling on public roads.

Whether you cycle or drive, these laws can be very helpful to be aware of. I feel so vulnerable when I’m out there on the roads. It’s why I rarely cycle alone. I wish I felt safer doing it; I would be a cycling fool! You think I run all the time now? Imagine riding my bike from my house to Uptown Charlotte, just for fun. Or going over to my brother’s house in Fort Mill. It’s only 10 miles – a short commute. I would love to do it. But it terrifies me.

Jessica said something to me recently about the fear – “It’s all about time in the saddle. The more you’re out there, the better you’ll feel.” And I keep that in mind every time I get on the bike. I know I’ll get more comfortable. But I need drivers out there to do their part, too.