“Tragedy should be utilized as a source of strength.”
– The Dalai Lama
Started as an organic, heart felt reaction to tragedy, Pass Them Like You Love Them is dedicated to building a national community that advocates for greater safety awareness for cyclists and motorists. Pass Them Like You Love Them does this by promoting the laws of the road through education and events. As our roads get ever more congested, and the popularity of cycling has increased there has also been a tragic rise in the the number of cyclist killed and severely injured by inattentive motorists. Pass Them Like You Love Them believes that we can halt and reverse the emerging dangers for cyclists by cultivating both emotional compassion on the part of motorists and cyclists and better understanding of the rules of the road that pertain to cyclists. Please help us spread the message!
Below you will find the initial blog post that launched the movement
By Meghan DeGan
In the light of recent events in my triathlon and running community, I have become even more aware of just how many people lack the knowledge of how to safely pass a cyclist. This past Friday local triathletes, Frank Guinn and Andrew Powell were struck by a car while out riding the course for New Orleans 70.3, putting Andrew in critical condition and taking the life of Frank. Frank left behind a wife and 7-year-old triplets. The conversations that I have had over the past few days have led me to write this article. Three young girls should not have to grow up without their dad because he went out for a ride. Period. And there are steps that both driver and cyclist can take to ensure that tragedies like this are averted in the future.
How to pass a cyclist should be common knowledge.
As drivers, it is our responsibility to know how to engage in something such as passing a cyclist. We should be aware of our surroundings and drive defensively. Unknown to many, it is illegal for a cyclist to ride on sidewalks. According to Georgia law 40-6-144, cyclists are required to be on roads. As cyclists, this also makes it our responsibility to watch out for cars and be aware of what is going on around us. It takes both sides to keep cyclists safe.
Cyclists and drivers have been in what seems like this ongoing war for years. I have had friends get spit on, run off the road, screamed at, cussed at, bottles thrown at them, you name it, and it has probably happened to someone reading this. My goal when I go out for my Monday afternoon or Saturday morning ride is not to piss you off or keep you from getting to where you need to be. My goal is to enjoy my work out and get through it safely. If you ask any cyclist that question, I assure you that that will be the response you get. But every day I go out and I have countless run-ins with distracted and impatient drivers. And I can only watch as a side mirror passes my arm, leaving just inches between my fragile human body and a fast moving 2 ton object.
But passing a bike doesn’t have to be to be a serious ordeal. It isn’t an incredibly difficult skill once you know the laws, etiquette and general safety recommendations for all motorists, drivers, and cyclists. Below are a few tips on how to safely pass a cyclist and some answers to some of the questions you might ask yourself while you are passing a cyclist. I hope, for the sake of human life, that you take these suggestions into consideration.
Safety Recommendations and Laws Concerning the Overtaking and Passing of a Cyclist.
1) If you don’t have at minimum a 3 ft. separation between ANY part of your car and the cyclist, it is illegal to pass the cyclist. If you have room to give more…give more, for the sake of the cyclist and the law.
• According to Georgia law 40-6-46 you must pass a cyclist giving them a “safe distance”, defined as no less than 3 feet. Road bike tires are smaller than the width of your index and middle finger. If you hit anything too much bigger than that there could be problems. While riding, cyclist will avoid rocks, gravel, sticks, pine cones and pot holes to keep from crashing. Giving us 3 feet allows for just enough room to make these quick adjustments when we come upon objects in the road.
2) Don’t pass on a corner or turn.
• Passing on a corner is a game of Russian roulette. Taking this risk can be dangerous for the cyclist, you and any oncoming car. Wait until you are around or can see around the turn before you pass a cyclist. If everything is clear, give them 3 feet and pass.
3) Don’t pass on a hill.
• Just like passing on a turn, passing on a hill can be just as risky. Wait until you have crested the hill and can make sure there is no oncoming traffic. This will keep everyone safe.
4) Pay attention to the cyclist you are passing as well as the road ahead of them.
• It’s not just about paying attention to the cyclist but also being aware of what is going on around them. Is there a turn up ahead, does the bike lane end, fallen branches, potholes? Look ahead of the cyclist before you pass to make sure they aren’t going to have to make any abrupt moves while you are passing.
5) Don’t pass a cyclist then make an immediate turn (right or left).
• Cyclists can’t break as well as your car can. When they break quickly it can cause them to slide out, go off the road, or blow a tire. Passing a cyclist and turning only a short distance down the road will, more often than not, end in them slamming into your backend or side.
6) Cyclists are going faster than you think; don’t make the mistake of turning out in front of a cyclist.
• It can be hard to determine how fast a cyclist is going, and you might think you have time to turn. It’s better to be safe and wait for the cyclist to pass than risk pulling out.
7) Pass quickly, but not too quickly.
• There is no need to race by a cyclist. But slowly creeping by will merely allow more time for a mishap. Once you start the process of passing keep the forward momentum going. The longer your car is next to a rider the greater chance there is for something to go wrong.
Cyclists also need to be educated on the laws of the road and ride within their limits.
It takes bike competence and confidence to keep a cyclist safe on the road. Here are some tips below. Further, the website Bicyclesafe.com has some really good information that I would suggest to anyone riding on the roads.
1) Ride within your ability.
• If you have never ridden on the open road, start slowly. Find a cyclist friendly road with bike lanes and practice biking in that environment first. Once you become confident in your abilities on this road and bike handling skills, then you can move on to more heavily trafficked roads.
2) LOOK before you do.
• Maybe there wasn’t a car there a few moments ago, but there is now, and you just pulled right out in front of them. Look multiple times before you start to make your move, especially if you are on windy or hilly roads. Don’t assume that the driver is aware of what you are doing. If you don’t make eye contact or receive some visual cue from the driver that he is aware of you…just wait.
3) Take the whole lane.
• There are times when taking the whole lane is appropriate. This simply means that you have merged to the middle of the lane. There are many reasons this may be appropriate. One huge reason I, personally, will take the road is when I believe that it is too dangerous for a car to pass me. Usually this occurs when I am descending on tight roads. Taking the lane is also something you want to do before making a left hand turn. Signal that you are turning and then take the road before you turn.
• Cars can’t read your mind, and they only know the amount that you give them. Let them know what you are planning to do and signal every time you are making a turn. Much driver frustration can come from the fact that they don’t know what you expect from them or what your next move will be.
5) Ride as if every driver doesn’t care.
• Unfortunately, there will always be drivers who just don’t care about what happens to you. Those are the dangerous ones that we as cyclist must do our best to avoid. Riding defensively will at some point save your life.
There will always be accidents; people will always make mistakes. Whether it is the fault of the driver or the cyclist is a moot point. It always ends in someone getting hurt or killed. If we can educate new and veteran drivers and cyclists on how to avoid these dangerous situations, I have no doubt that it will save lives. It can be frustrating when there is a cyclist in front of you and you are late to work, dropping the kids off at school, a meeting, or whatever event you have going on. But ask yourself, “is recklessly passing this cyclist to get to where I need to be really worth a devastating outcome?” Is it worth someone’s life? Is it worth three little girls having to grow up without their father?
I hope your answers to the above questions are “no”. The next time you pass a cyclist, pass like you would if the rider were your little brother or sister, best friend, or significant other. Passing them like you love them could be all it takes to save their life.