The Online Voice of the Bicycle Alliance of Washington

Monday, July 19, 2010

Cyclists Make Drivers Uncomfortable

A Pemco Insurance poll has revealed what many of us already know—most motorists are uncomfortable driving around bicyclists and they do not understand the rules of road as they relate to biking. The Puget Sound Business Journal did a short piece on the Pemco poll last week.

Forty-two percent of the respondents described themselves as “somewhat uncomfortable” when bicyclists are present on the road while they are driving. Twenty percent said they are “very uncomfortable.”

Only 23 percent know that it’s legal for cyclists to ride two abreast in a traffic lane. Forty-eight percent responded “false.”

Over one-third of the respondents don’t know that it’s illegal for a cyclist to ride against traffic. Only 23 percent responded “false” (correct answer) to the statement, “Bicyclists can be ticketed for riding their bikes in a crosswalk.” Entire poll results are here.

“It’s good to have this data because it shows the need for education,” said Bicycle Alliance of Washington board member Eileen Hyatt of Spokane.

Hyatt is a retired teacher and League Certified Instructor who successfully brought bicycle safety education into school districts around Spokane. She is working with the Bicycle Alliance to expand this program into other schools around Washington State.

The Bicycle Alliance is also acting to educate motorists on how to safely share the road with bicyclists. Working with the Department of Licensing, we have successfully incorporated “share the road” curriculum in all drivers’ education courses. We distribute thousands of Motorists/Bicyclists Tips for Sharing the Road each year. We are now working with legislators to make it a requirement to include “share the road” curriculum in traffic school programs.

Is there a noteworthy skills training or Share the Road program in your community?

Is your community in need of a Share the Road campaign?

What else might be done to make all users of the road comfortable and tolerant of each other?


  1. Thanks for this post. When the majority of the public, cyclists and non-cyclists alike, don't know these things, adding on-road bicycle specific infrastructure without the education further confuses the message that bicyclists are to be considered drivers.

  2. Having curriculum in school may work, but more importantly if there are more classes on cycling safely, like they have in Denmark. And eventually more and more kids cycling to school (instead of being dropped of!) then that would be all the awareness that cyclists who become motorists would need.

    John, given how incredibly confusing things are now, I don't see adding additional cyclist infrastructure is going to confuse further! "Confusion" is not really a good excuse to stop adding infrastructure, since we know that infrastructure gets more people out cycling.

  3. genman: The Bicycle Alliance is actively working to bring bicycle safety education into the schools through our Safe Routes to School program. Our goal is to see this curriculum taught in every school in Washington State.