02

Blog

Cycling and the Law: Cars Approaching from Behind

From Ann in North Carolina: Hit from behind collisions are not nearly as statistically common as intersection collisions.  But that doesn’t make the prospect of one any less frightening.  To make matters worse, motorists often have no idea what to do when approaching a cyclist from behind and there’s plenty of confusion among cyclists as well about how we’re supposed to behave.

Well, as we learned in Law and Cycling 101 (January 13 post) if you know the Rules of the Road for Motor Vehicles, then, in North Carolina, you know most of them for bicycles as well.  So drivers should treat cyclists like cars (although, I would argue, with greater care since we’re more vulnerable) and cyclists should act predictably and, as much as possible, as if they were driving a car.  As a corollary, there are no laws specifically requiring cyclists to ride single file, or no more than two abreast, or to pull over to allow traffic to pass.  If someone tells you there’s a law in North Carolina specifically requiring a cyclist to act a certain way, chances are pretty good he’s wrong, unless you’re having a conversation about lights or kids wearing helmets.

So where does that leave us?  What do we tell the police officer who tells us we should be riding single file?  Do we have any obligation to make way when we’re climbing a hill during rush hour with a pile of 20 cars behind us?  Should I make an aggressive driver complaint about the guy who just passed me? (http://charmeck.org/city/charlotte/Transportation/CDOTrequests/Pages/BicyclistReportonAggressiveDrivers.aspx, in Charlotte, for example)

Staying right: First, anyone going less than the legal maximum speed limit has to drive, “in the right-hand lane then available for thru traffic, or as close as practicable to the right-hand curb or edge of the highway” except when passing or getting ready to turn left.  The glaring, unanswered question, of course, is: what does “practicable” mean.  Is it practicable to hug the curb when I feel (and know) I’m safer riding a few feet out into the road in order to be more visible?  What if there is debris on the right?  Bottom line: know this rule and use common sense when applying it.  There’s a little case law on this around the country; let’s not make anyone a test case in North Carolina. Those arguments might be fun for the lawyers; not so much for the person we’re arguing for.

Passing distance: Second, South Carolina requires passing at a “safe distance.”  North Carolina has a two foot passing rule. The North Carolina rule requires “at least” two feet of space when passing and no returning to the right side of the road until the passing vehicle is safely clear of the overtaken vehicle.  I would argue that “at least” two feet means more feet are required in certain conditions (higher speeds, more vulnerable vehicles, ie. cyclists, etc)  I may be testing that argument soon in a court of law.  On the flipside, we have to give way to the overtaking vehicle – don’t speed up or intentionally block the car from passing.  Again, let’s use common sense!

Passing circumstances: Third, can drivers go over the double yellow line to pass cyclists? I am asked this question often, presumably because most cyclists want to be courteous and want to waive drivers by when the driver is waiting patiently behind the cyclists.  Here’s what the law in North Carolina says: NO, drivers may not cross the double yellow line to pass.  Here’s the catch: there’s no criminal punishment for doing so (remember the difference between civil and criminal).  But, if a driver goes over a double yellow to pass and causes a collision, you can bet that driver will be found at fault.  I understand (from general practice and guy who argued very vehemently with me in Durham) that cyclists will continue to waive drivers by. If you do, use caution and beware of the potential consequences.

Golden Rule: Finally, use signals, always be predictable and be visible. Looking cool in your dark colored kit isn’t worth your life. ‘Nuff said on that.

Want to know more or hear it live, for free?  Call us.  Our firms are located in Charlotte, Durham and Charleston and we travel.

Safe travels!

Comments

Ann Groninger Jan 16, 2019

There is nothing good about losing a beloved husband, father and member of the community. Eugene (Gene) Rotberg will never be replaced; everyone who knew him has a hole in his or her heart because of Gene’s absence. Of course, the loss to his wife, two grown children and grandchildren is immeasurable. But sometimes new […]

Read More
Bryan Waldman Jan 04, 2019

To put it mildly, legislation to make Michigan a better and safer place for bicyclists has never been a priority for Michigan lawmakers. Those who have worked to advance bicycle laws have proposed common sense legislation for years. While a minority of state lawmakers seemed sympathetic to our cause, they were frank in telling us […]

Read More
Rachael Maney Nov 28, 2018

I asked my 7 year old son, Will, to draw me a picture of each of these things: life with cars; life with electric cars; life with autonomous cars; they all looked the same. But the fourth picture- life in a modern, forward thinking, and environmentally, economically, and socially responsible place- looked very different. Even […]

Read More
Matt Johnson Nov 06, 2018

We were somewhere around Denison on the edge of the corn fields when the Eurostyle Chamois Butter began to take hold. I remember saying something like “I feel a bit lightheaded, maybe we should stop at a watering station…” And suddenly there was a terrible roar all around us, and the road was full of […]

Read More
Peter Wilborn Oct 02, 2018

October is a big month in the triathlon world, with the Kona Ironman World Championships on the 13th. So it is good news that Triathlete Magazine chose its October issue to focus on bicycle safety and advocacy. Bike Law Director (and our resident triathlete) Rachael Maney was featured and interviewed in the piece. She shared […]

Read More
Peter Wilborn Sep 28, 2018

Chicago has become one of the nation’s top cycling cities, but along with more has come an increase in dooring crashes. A Chicago news channel has covered the issue and interviewed attorney Brendan Kevenides, Bike Law’s legal resource in Illinois. Brendan explained the growing risk to cyclists and how the “Dutch Reach” can help.  The […]

Read More
Amy Benner Johnson Sep 21, 2018

Drivers are coming within less than 1.5 feet of cyclists on the road in Knoxville with alarming regularity. Drivers are coming within less than two feet of cyclists on the road in Knoxville with alarming regularity. It’s not your imagination. It’s not all in your head. Your combined senses of touch, sound, and sight all […]

Read More
Rachael Maney Sep 12, 2018

You may have already seen the video below. If you haven’t, please watch. On Tuesday, August 24th just before 7PM, Jeff McCord and approximately 20 other cyclists were stopped at the intersection of Karl Daly and Grants Mill Road in Irondale, Alabama, a town outside the city of Birmingham. As McCord waited for an ambulance […]

Read More
Rachael Maney Aug 30, 2018

In 2010, Richmond, California got lucky when Brooklyn born Najari Smith planted roots in the Bay Area city, quickly claiming a very important role in his new community. Having given more than 1,100 bikes to Richmond’s youth and community members in the last 6 years, Najari’s vision and mission to promote a bike-centric lifestyle has […]

Read More
Bruce Hagen Jul 17, 2018

On July 11, 2018, a very experienced rider and friend to many in the Rockdale County area, Albert “Ab” Roesel, was killed while out on a rural road doing a ride that he no doubt had done many times before.  Ab was 75 years old.   The police investigation concluded that Ab had been headed Southbound, […]

Read More
Brendan Kevenides Jun 04, 2018

At sea a boat under power must give way to a more vulnerable craft.  The law requires that a power driven vessel give way to a sailing vessel.  A sail boat must give way to a craft engaged in fishing. These simple rules are consistent with the maxim that with greater power comes greater responsibility. […]

Read More
Commuter Bike
Bruce Hagen May 29, 2018

Recently, my wife and I moved into a new home that’s closer to my office, which has allowed me to start commuting by bike.  I rode my bike to and from my office 4 consecutive days before my schedule forced me back into the car. My hope and plan is to commute by bike at […]

Read More
Load More