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How to Share the Road with Bicyclists and Prevent Accidents

As the number of bicyclists increases in Indiana, so does the number of bike accidents. The Indianapolis-based nonprofit Bike Indianapolis estimated that there were between one and five cyclists killed each year in the city between 2015 and 2020; but in 2021, that number jumped up to seven.

It’s important now more than ever for drivers to pay close attention to cyclists on roadways, as bicycling is becoming more popular across cities in Indiana as a more sustainable, eco-friendly form of travel. Both operators of motor vehicles and bicyclists should exercise caution when taking to public roads, if they want to ensure Indiana stays safe for everyone.

This guide covers what both drivers and cyclists in Indiana should know before getting on the road, including laws related to biking on roadways and tips for how to stay safe.

A driver’s responsibility to share the road with bicyclists

When you get behind the wheel of a car in Indiana, you must follow Indiana traffic laws on public roads. Here are the laws you need to know concerning sharing the road with bicyclists in Indiana, from the Indiana Bureau of Motor Vehicles Driver’s Manual:

  • Drivers must share the roadway with bicyclists, including yielding the right of way to bicyclists just as they do to other vehicles.
  • Drivers should wait for a bicyclist to enter and exit an intersection before turning left.
  • Bicyclists are not obligated to use a bike lane if there is one; they have the right to use either the bike lane or travel lane.
  • Drivers of motor vehicles are not allowed to use bike lanes, including parking in bike lanes or moving into bike lanes in preparation to turn.
  • Drivers must give bicyclists three feet of clearance when passing them.
  • Green markings on the pavement indicate a bike lane; red markings indicate public transit lanes.
Source: Indiana Bureau of Motor Vehicles Driver’s Manual Chapter 7

Tips for drivers to share the road properly

If you operate a motor vehicle in Indiana, you should practice caution when you notice a bicycle on the roadway. In addition to following the traffic rules listed above, you can also follow these tips to help keep yourself, bicyclists, and pedestrians safe:

  • Be patient and allow extra time for bicyclists to go through intersections.
  • Only pass a bicyclist if you can do so safely.
  • Don’t speed ahead of a bicyclist to make a right turn, as they are likely to crash into the passenger side of your vehicle.
  • Be watchful of cyclists entering the intersection when you’re making a left turn.
  • If you park near a bike lane or on the street, open the door with your right hand instead of your left. This will force you to turn and look to check for oncoming bicyclists and avoid injuring them with your open door.
  • Avoid honking at bicyclists because it can make them stressed or agitated and lead to an accident.

How to stay safe as a bicyclist

Preventing accidents isn’t only up to those operating motor vehicles. Cyclists have a part to play too, and must follow laws and rules set out specifically for bikes. Here’s a summary of the most important Indiana laws concerning bikes on the roadways:

  • Bicyclists may not ride more than two abreast on a roadway except on paths set aside specifically for bikes. (IC 9-21-11-6)
  • Bicyclists may not carry a package or bundle that prevents them from keeping both hands on the handlebars. (IC 9-21-11-7)
  • When you’re operating a bicycle in the dark (which lasts from 30 minutes after sunset until 30 minutes before sunrise), you must have a white light on the front and a red light on the rear of your bike, both visible from at least 500 feet away. (IC 9-21-11-9)
  • Bicyclists riding on highways must follow all regular traffic rules. (IC 9-21-11-12)
  • Bikes must have brakes. (IC 9-21-11-10)
  • Bicyclists must come to a full stop at stop signs, just like cars. Bicyclists may run a red light, however, if it has been red for longer than two minutes.

When you choose to ride your bike on the same roads as motor vehicles, you must be aware of traffic laws and watch out for your safety. Keep these tips in mind as a bicyclist on the roadway:

  • Don’t wear headphones so you can hear if a car is approaching from behind you.
  • Wear a brightly-colored vest (such as neon orange or yellow) so that you are easy for drivers to spot.
  • Always slow down before entering a street or intersection.
  • Ride with traffic, not against it. Stay as far to the right as possible.
  • Always wear a helmet, no matter how experienced of a cyclist you are.
  • Be consistent and predictable; don’t thread in and out of parked cars.
  • Always be on the lookout for hazards such as gravel, sand, and glass.
  • Use the proper hand signals when making a turn.
  • Always check that your brakes are working properly before you start riding.

Share the road and stay safe

By following some simple safety tips and reviewing traffic rules every once in a while, you can help prevent bike-related accidents in Indiana. It also helps to just be more careful when you drive. 

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