25 October 2016

Now Drivers Can Cross The Line, And Cyclists Are Happy About It

Whenever I visit my parents in Florida, I get out and ride at least once.

Some rides--such as those along Route A1A, which rims the Atlantic Ocean--are beautiful and peaceful.  The calm is occasionally interrupted by traffic in popular beach towns like Flagler and Ormond Beaches, but for the most part, it's pretty orderly and no driver has done anything hostile or dangerous toward me.  Some, I suspect, may be cyclists, but the others just seemed like people who are relaxed and enjoying themselves, or simply courteous.

When I head inland from my parents' house, though, things change.  There, I find myself riding through wooded areas and swamps, or along rivers and creeks.  Those rides are also pleasant and enjoyable, but riding the one-, two- or even four-lane roads toward the Sunshine State's interior is a different experiences.  Although one encounters less traffic--on some roads, you can go for an hour or more without encountering a motor vehicle--the way drivers interact with me is very different.

On such roads, drivers leave less room when passing.  To be fair, many of those roads are very narrow.  But some drivers, it seems, just don't want to deviate even in the slightest from their path.  Or, perhaps, they are not cyclists and are therefore unaccustomed to us.  Indeed, I might be the only cyclist they see that day.  

I've also had drivers tail me even though they could easily pass me.  Then they would bang their horns in frustration and make a sudden swerve around me, affording me only a berth thinner than Benotto handlebar tape.

Then there were those who simply roar down the road as fast as the laws of physics will allow, stirring up whirlwinds of pebbles and dirt and wakes of rustling reeds and mussed-up hair.  They, perhaps, are the most disconcerting drivers of all.

From CBS North Carolina

I have never cycled in North Carolina, but I imagine that all of the scenarios I've described are pretty common.  Cyclists there have long  complained about cars and trucks passing close enough to "take the skin off the back of your hand", as more than one cyclist put it. Another cyclist, Randall Bennett, recalls his arm being clipped by the mirror of a passing car.

Apparently, a section of North Carolina traffic code all but mandated such behavior.  Until the beginning of this month, it was illegal for a driver in the Tar Heel State to cross over the center line to pass a cyclist.  Also, a driver was required to give a berth of only two feet to a cyclist he or she passed.

On the first of this month, changes that were made to House Bill 959 of the State Legislature went into effect.  As a result, it's now legal for a driver to cross over the center line to pass a cyclist, as long as there's an assured clear distance ahead and no oncoming traffic.  Also, drivers have to give cyclists more room--four feet instead of two--when passing.

From what I've read, it seems that both cyclists and drivers are happy with the change:  Cyclists say that it makes conditions safer for them; drivers say the same thing and that it makes them less worried about incurring fines.

Let's hope that, down the road (pun intended), both sides see the results of the new law as a win-win situation.


  1. Let's hope the law will bring a change in drivers' behaviour, although i'm not given to optimism. i fear that a mere change of laws will not cause drivers to change their habits.

  2. About forty years ago it became obligatory to use headlights when it rains, if I had $1 for everyone even now who flouts that law I would be richer than the orange candidate. Takes time...

    Was a time when nearly everyone had probably had an experience of cycling in their past and knew the dynamics, would be interesting to know the statistics.

  3. Florida has long had a reputation as a bad place to cycle. In the 1985 classic "Miles From Nowhere" author Barbara Savage rated Florida as the worst place they ever rode. That's saying something since their round the world trip was 23,000 miles. To all the cycling brothers and sisters in Florida I say hang in there baby it's gotta get better.

    On a lighter note it's good to see my home state of NC passing a common sense law. Maybe this will partially redeem them after the asinine Potty Law. That one was straight out of the Redneck Playbook.

  4. Mike--We can always hope, right?

    Coline--Hmm...If they can't enforce a regulation like the one you've described in Scotland, it would be completely pointless here! Still, I wish you had that dollar (or, better yet, pound) for every time you saw the law flouted: You'd have a Mercian or two by now!

    Phillip--Yes, Florida can be a scary place to ride just because it's so auto-centric. There are bike trails where my parents live but, of course, you can't go everywhere you want or need to go on them.

    Don't get me started on the Potty Law!