Part 3 – How motorists can protect cyclists in traffic
WIESBADEN, Germany – People on bicycles have the same rights and responsibilities as people behind the wheel of a vehicle. To avoid accidents and reduce conflicts between bicyclists and motorists, the Garrison has collected some useful information, giving answers to the question: How Can Drivers Keep Cyclists Safe?
Many drivers decide whether to pass a cyclist or patiently follow them based on their feelings. But there are regulations governing the overtaking process. With the amendment to the German Road Traffic Regulations (Strassenverkehrsordnung, StVO), the legislation has made these regulations more specific. According to § 5 of the StVO (§ 5 StVO 2013), when overtaking, drivers must behave in such a way that they do not endanger the traffic behind them. In addition, drivers must keep a sufficient distance from other road users. For drivers, this means: "When overtaking pedestrians, cyclists and drivers of very small electric vehicles with motor vehicles, the sufficient lateral distance is at least 1.5 m in built-up areas and at least 2 m outside built-up areas."
As a takeaway, people should yield to bicyclists as you would motorists and do not underestimate their speed. This will help avoid turning in front of a bicyclist traveling on the road or sidewalk, often at an intersection or driveway. In parking lots, at stop signs, when packing up, or when parking, search your surroundings for other vehicles, including bicycles.
Drivers turning right on red, should look to the right and behind them to avoid hitting a bicyclist approaching from the right rear. It’s obvious that all motorists should obey the speed limit, reduce speed as needed for road conditions and drive defensively to avoid a crash with a cyclist.
It can prove lifesaving to give the cyclists room, as they can't always manage drawing a straight line due to underground or wind conditions around them.
Door opening – Dutch Reach
Opening a vehicle door also means changing the width of the vehicle and thus taking away the necessary space from other road users, such as cyclists, skateboarders or roller skaters. To avoid any issues, before opening the door, the car driver should always look behind! Following AAA, the so called “Dutch Reach” is a helpful hint. To do the Dutch Reach, just open your car door from the inside with the hand that’s furthest from the door handle. You can do it whether you’re a driver or a passenger in a car. By using the opposite hand, it forces you to turn your body and check behind you. It also allows you to check your rear view and wing mirrors as you swivel. Once you’ve checked your blind spot, you can make sure there is no approaching cyclist that you might hit with the car door – a crime known as ‘dooring’. See a demonstrating video.
Cyclists may ride in bike lanes or on roadways unless a blue traffic sign tells them to use the bike lane. Even if it is tight before the red light: according to §5 of the German Road Traffic Regulations, cyclists are allowed to overtake waiting cars on the right if there is sufficient space. However, "moderate speed and special caution" must be observed when doing so.
Protective lanes for cyclists are marked by an interrupted white guideline. Only in exceptional cases are motorists allowed to drive over the guideline, for example if they have to swerve at short notice and no cyclist is endangered in the process. Stopping in the protective lane is prohibited and will result in a penalty point.
On the other hand, motorists are not allowed to swerve, park or stop on bike lanes, which are indicated by a solid white line. Only in order to reach parking spaces behind them are they allowed to drive over them, but they must ensure cyclists are neither obstructed nor endangered in the process.
Remember: Even if you are right, don't insist on it! What good is it if you were right and there is still an accident? As a rule, the main blame always lies with the "stronger" driver.