Sharing the same roadways with bicyclists means increased safety issues

Published 10:08 am Wednesday, March 28, 2018

Although we’ve had a very mild winter, warmer weather and longer days are just around the corner! With warmer weather comes more people out walking, jogging, or biking and just plain enjoying the weather, but it also means there is more opportunity for accidents. It is important for both pedestrians, bicyclists, and motorists to be aware while on the road and respect the other person’s right to use the roadway just as you do.
As a motorist, it is important to keep in mind that a car weighs 2 tons or so, while the average bike is a mere 20 pounds, according to The 2-ton car will always win in any type of physical altercation with a bicyclist. It’s also important to keep in mind, that in some instances it is illegal for an adult bicyclist to use a sidewalk forcing them to share the road with you and when bicycles are on the road, they must obey all the same traffic laws as a motorist (including using the appropriate turn lanes, stopping at stop lights, using turning signals, etc). As a motorist, wait until it is safe to pass a bicycle and refrain from tailgating as this could easily cause an accident. In Tennessee, it is the law to leave 3 feet of space between you and a bicycle at all times and more than 3 feet when speed limits are over 40 mph. The bottom line is be tolerant, be understanding, and be careful. Many of these same laws and guidelines can be applied to pedestrians in the road as well.
For bicyclists, it is also very important that you also take steps to ensure that you respect motorists as well. Recognize that utilizing major thoroughfares with little or no shoulder may cause delays for motorists. If possible, utilize alternative routes such as dedicated bike trail systems or side roads to get to your destination. Ensure that you are wearing bright, reflective colors so that you can ensure motorists will see you. Additionally, make sure your bicycle is equipped with front and rear lights especially if you will be riding at or after dusk. Ensure that you use appropriate hand singles for turning and stopping and obey vehicle laws when riding on a road. This helps motorists better predict what you will do so they will react accordingly.
Similar to bicyclists, walkers or joggers should wear bright, reflective colors so that motorists can see you better. Walkers and joggers should also carry a flashlight with them if they are exercising at or after dusk. This will help ensure that motorists can more easily see you. Also, where possible use a sidewalk. About two-thirds of the city has sidewalks available along the sides of our roads — use them. For areas that don’t have sidewalks, walk or jog in the opposite direction of vehicles and do not wear headphones or talk on a cell phone. This may help you see or hear vehicles before they can see you!
We certainly want to encourage our citizens to get out and be active in our community, whether it is taking a walk after your evening dinner, or biking to work or grabbing a sweet treat, but it is important for all users of the road to understand and realize that everyone must be aware and alert. Motorists, bicyclists, and pedestrians should be alert, watching for, and respecting each other’s right to use the roadway. This becomes especially important as we work to make our community more friendly to bicyclists. Let’s talk about it!
(Jon Hartman is Director of Planning & Economic Development for the City of Elizabethton. He can be contacted at (423) 542-1503 or by email at:

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