Cyclists In DC: Forget The Shoulder, Ride Among Traffic

As the weather heats up, more bikers are taking a turn toward safety to avoid bicycle accidents in DC by getting closer to cars.

It may seem counterintuitive, but riding in the road may be safer than riding on the shoulder. Biking on the side of the road poses many risks, such as cyclists swerving into traffic to avoid obstructions. Bikers are often not seen by motorists because they are not in the traffic lane, and they have been injured or killed by parked cars opening doors.

River Road in Montgomery County poses a particular problem. This is a common avenue for cyclists and drivers alike-and equally dangerous for both. The road is curvy and winding, and the lack of a shoulder forces bikers to either hug the guardrail or ride perilously close to cars moving at 50 miles an hour.

According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, bicycle accidents caused 11 Maryland deaths in 2009. Many of these resulted in collisions with cars, but the fault may actually lie with the road layout itself, which is designed for cars first, and other vehicles as an afterthought.

Maryland and DC laws state that bicyclists may use the full lane of traffic as long as they can match the speed of the cars on the road. Residents are not only hoping for more bike lanes, but for city planners to consider other vehicles when designing the roadways.

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