In the latest statistics available from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), bicyclists accounted for 2% of all traffic fatalities during the 2011 calendar year. In this era of high gas prices and seemingly endless traffic congestion, bicyclists are everywhere, from the congested urban areas to the lower-traffic country roads. Many cities and towns have added “bike lanes” to their road systems. These bike lanes create turning situations in which a motor vehicle driver is
often required to cross over the bike lane to complete a turn. While this may not be a new experience for professional limousine drivers, it may be a new experience for bicyclists who may believe their bike lanes “protect” them from traffic. Drivers can be faced with an urban rider who is an unskilled bike rider and is wandering all over the road. There’s the fitness cyclist who is in athletic clothing and is moving quickly along back-roads or even highways. Sometimes cyclists are not where they are legally allowed to be. In other instances, they are in a newly created bike lane that a vehicle driver might not recognize. And there can be situations in which cyclists are wearing clothing that makes them difficult to see, especially at night.
Fatalities involving motor vehicles and bicyclists rose sharply in 2011, and the upward
trend seems to have continued into 2012. According to the Governors Highway Safety Association (GHSA), the increase in bicycle deaths probably reflects more people riding bicycles to work and for pleasure, and the increasing awareness of being fit and wanting to protect the environment. In Washington, D.C., for example, an area that already has an increased pedestrian accident risk, there has been a 175% increase in bicyclists during morning and evening rush hours since 2004. The city also tripled its bike lane network during the same period.
So what does this mean for professional limousine drivers? First, familiarize yourself with safety issues relating to how to drive around bicyclists. Check sites like NHTSA and GHSA and link to studies and suggestions on sharing the road with bicyclists. You might often be faced with situations in which you are unsure about the space between
your vehicle and a bicycle you are passing. You should not pass unless you’re sure there is adequate space, including space for your mirrors to clear the bicyclist. Secondly, recognize that bicycles can move quickly and can be anywhere. The mere fact that you haven’t seen a bicyclist on a familiar road doesn’t mean there won’t be one the next time you’re driving on it. Recognize also that bicycles will be out there in good and bad weather, will often be operated by cyclists that are leaning over the handle bars, making their profile more difficult to see, and that they may not have adequate reflectors or lights, which is especially an issue during dawn and dusk.
The April 2013 release of NHTSA Traffic Safety Facts focuses on bicycle rider statistics and offers some suggestions on driving safely around bicycles.