02

Blog

Riding Two Abreast – Why It Matters to You As a Cyclist

Look at the above picture. There’s nothing special about it, really – aside from the obvious fact that every ride with your buddies is special.

Now take another look. What you’re seeing is two abreast riding, a common practice in nearly every group ride. Currently, North Carolina’s law is silent on riding two abreast, and cyclists across the state operate on the understanding that it’s perfectly legal.

As a cyclist, you should be aware that a study committee set up by the General Assembly is poised to debate whether bicyclists should have to ride single file or be allowed to ride two or more abreast.

The study committee, which is charged with reviewing several bicycle safety laws, is meeting Wednesday in Raleigh, from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.  The committee must send a report and recommendations to the General Assembly’s Joint Legislative Transportation Oversight Committee on or before December 31, 2015.

If the study committee ultimately recommends a single file law and the General Assembly passes it, two abreast riding would be a thing of the past. That change would make our roads less safe for cycling. And it would likely ring the death knell for group rides and club rides as we know them today.

The current law works just fine – if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. We do not need new restrictions on where bicyclists can operate, especially restrictions that make the roads less safe for any user.

Bike Law’s very own Peter Wilborn has written a post that details why two abreast riding is often a safer way to ride. Among the factors Peter lists are increased visibility for cyclists and easier passing by motorists.

If North Carolina lawmakers are bound and determined to spell things out, then the law should specifically allow side-by-side riding. The reason is simple: it’s often SAFER for cyclists than single file riding. Bicycling advocate Steven Goodridge, who thankfully is serving on the study committee, says it best:

Riding two abreast is one of the most effective safety strategies used by knowledgeable bicyclists when riding together; it makes bicyclists more conspicuous and greatly reduces unsafe close passing, sideswipes and run-off-road crashes on state roads. It is therefore important for riding two abreast to remain a legal practice that may be exercised at bicyclists’ discretion.

Steve has crunched the numbers to reach his conclusion — and by numbers I mean the police crash data compiled by NCDOT. According to that data:

  • 73% of motorist overtaking bicyclist crashes occur on two lane roads;
  • 67% of these crashes occur on roads with posted maximum speed limits of 40 mph or higher;
  • 59% occur on “rural” roads;
  • 91% occur on a straight section of roadway;
  • Only 9% occur at a curve, and only 3% at a straight hill-crest.

As Steve notes, these crashes are mostly happening on straight sections of state roads with narrow lanes and high posted speed limits. They often occur when a motorist tries to squeeze past a cyclist without moving over. He states:

Based on my examination of many police reports and discussions with investigating officers, most daylight motorist-overtaking-bicyclist collisions occur where the driver sees the bicyclist ahead but attempts to pass within the same lane as the bicyclist who is riding at the right edge of the lane.

Meanwhile, Steve notes, “motorist-overtaking-bicyclist crashes involving bicyclists riding two abreast are practically non-existent — we cannot find any record of them happening in NC.”

Plain and simple, crashes caused by overtaking vehicles typically occur when cyclists are in single file formation, not when they are riding side-by-side. Two abreast riding largely eliminates unsafe close passes within the same lane.

If the legislature were to pass a two abreast law, we would join 39 other states that specifically allow that practice. We’d also be on the same footing as North Carolina motorcyclists. Under G.S. 20-146.1, they may legally split the lane and ride two abreast.

Here’s hoping the committee studying bicycle safety will take note of its own data and put safety first by continuing to allow two abreast riding.

 

Comments

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
Pat Brown May 10, 2018

Strength, ambition, and courage are just a few words that come to mind when we think of Anthony Lue.  Growing up, Anthony enjoyed playing competitive sports such as baseball, volleyball, basketball and mountain biking, but his true passion was discovered on his high school track.    After winning gold for 100m hurdles at the provincial championships […]

Read More
Lauri Boxer-Macomber Apr 30, 2018

Following a horrific bicycle crash in 2016, Dr. Michael Rifkin has become a new type of bicycling advocate — one who is deeply committed to ending distracted driving. Read his op-ed on Making Distracted Driving in Maine Taboo here. Dr. Rifkin’s piece reminds us that we can be distracted by our phones and other electronic devices even […]

Read More
Load More