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Why bicyclists, in-line skaters ride with traffic

July 7, 2012
By DAVE WERNER ( , Franklin County Traffic Safety Board

In spite of numerous articles stating vehicle and traffic law that requires bicyclists and in-line skaters must ride with traffic, there are many cyclists, adults and children, riding on the wrong side of the street or road every day. Since we don't have many in-line skaters in our area, let's just deal with bicycles.

There are several good, logical reasons why this law should be followed. First, let's assume a biker rides easily at about 10 mph (good bicyclists can easily average 20 mph or more). Obviously, riding downhill yields speeds ever faster. In the villages, where speed limits are 30 mph, if a bicyclist is riding with traffic, a vehicle would be going about 20 mph faster than the bike, or a closing speed of 20 mph. If the cyclist were riding against traffic, the vehicle would be closing upon the biker at 40 mph. Obviously, should a biker do something that would make the driver of the vehicle take evasive action to avoid hitting the person on the bike, it is much easier for the motorist to avoid the bicycle when the closing speed is 20 mph versus 40 mph. Even on a road outside the villages, where vehicles are traveling at 55 mph, the closing speed on a bicyclist traveling on the right side would be 45 mph versus 65 mph if the cyclist were riding on the wrong side. And, in any case, should a collision result, the chances of death or serious injury would increase with any increase in closing speeds. Therefore, a bicyclist would stand a much greater chance of survival or less injury in a collision in which he was riding on the correct side than if he were riding against traffic.

Here's another reason, as depicted in the sketch with this article. Picture a bicyclist riding on the wrong side of a street (cyclist A), and the pictured car wants to turn right. The driver knows that traffic going from his right to left doesn't interfere with his intended turn, and therefore only concerns himself with traffic coming from his left. If he sees no traffic coming from his left, he makes his turn in front of the cyclist, or runs into the bicyclist that is on the wrong side of the road. If the cyclist were riding correctly, as in position B, there would be no problem at all.

These are two valid reasons to obey the law. Laws have a reason, and that's why we all must obey them for safe travel, whether we are traveling in a vehicle, on a bicycle, on in-line skates, or just walking.

So now that two reasons were presented for biking on the side with traffic, why are pedestrians supposed to walk facing traffic? First, the difference in speed between a pedestrian and a vehicle going in either direction is very small, perhaps only about 5 mph. Thus closing speeds are not a factor. Secondly, a pedestrian facing traffic is able to quickly move further to the side if he sees a vehicle approaching him too close to the side of the road a pedestrian can quickly move to his left where a bicycle cannot.

In conclusion, ride with traffic, walk against. Bicyclists must follow the rules of the road applicable to vehicles; pedestrians must follow the rules for pedestrians.


For more articles on vehicle and traffic law and traffic safety, go to the Traffic Safety Board website under "Departments" at



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