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Rising gas prices could mean more bicyclists on the road, here are some safety tips for your commute

biking
Murillo de Paula
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Unsplash

With gas prices hitting record highs this month, you might be considering commuting to work on your bicycle.

But there are some safety considerations to keep in mind when doing so.

Michigan law gives cyclists the same rights as people driving a vehicle.

biking rules three foot passing
Photo courtesy
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Michigan.gov

It also requires drivers to keep three feet of clearance when passing a cyclist, but the law isn’t always followed.

Tim Potter is the sustainable transportation manager at the Michigan State University Bike Services Center.

He says he sometimes rides his bike in the middle of the lane because it can be safer than the bike lane.

"It's because there's a lot of potholes and debris, glass, dead animals, things of that sort at the edge, the very edge of the road," Potter said.

Michigan law allows cyclists to ride in a lane, especially when it’s unsafe to be near the curb.

Recommendations

Potter says while it may not seem like the obvious choice, riding with lights on during the day adds extra protection for cyclists.

"I really highly recommend you use bright flashing lights during the day as well as at night because you just really want to stand out from the environment," he said.

Potter also recommends wearing bright colors and urges people to ride in the same direction as traffic.

tim potter
courtesy
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Tim Potter
Tim Potter, sustainable transportation manager at the Michigan State University Bike Services Center.

Looking toward the future

Potter is also advocating for vehicles to give cyclists five feet of clearance when passing.

That's after a school bus passed him a little too close for comfort on March 9 near the Michigan State University campus. Potter reported the incident to MSU Police and the superintendent of North Huron School District.

An MSU Police public information officer offered the following written statement:

MSU Police and Public Safety prioritizes everyone's safety on campus, including those who travel by bicycle. We are aware of the incident on March 9th that took place on campus where a non-MSU school bus passed a bike rider very closely on the roadway. We understand the potential danger of this situation and are deeply sorry that the bike rider experienced this while on campus.

In response, we are in the process of educating the school district of the bus about the Michigan Vehicle Code, which requires at least 3 feet of distance when passing a bicycle. We have spoken to the bicyclist who was impacted by the incident and they are aware and support this education based approach.

We will continue to prioritize and provide traffic education and enforcement on the campus of Michigan State University.

Because of his close encounter with the school bus, Potter wants to see a greater distance given between motorists and cyclists when passing.

"I think if if we could be, you know, more consistent on the five foot distance then it would be clearer because a lot of motorists don't know where the edge of their car is and they can misjudge that three feet," he said.

In October 2019, nine Michigan communities adopted a five-foot passing law, including the cities of Ann Arbor, Grand Rapids and Kalamazoo.

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Courtesy
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Michigan Department of Transportation

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