Alabama Cyclists, Motorists Struggle To Peacefully Coexist

Since 2005, states all across the nation have seen a 46% increase in the number of people who commute by bicycle. But despite the passing of a state law that mandates a minimum distance between passenger vehicles and bicycles on the road, some Alabama cyclists are saying that cyclist-motorist accidents are still occurring all too frequently.

Between 2010 and 2014, around 19% of Alabama’s bicycle-related crashes occurred on state roads, with the majority taking place on municipal streets. So in 2015, Alabama passed a law, the “Give Three Feet Law,” that requires motorists traveling on any state roadway to maintain a distance of three feet, at minimum, between their own vehicle and a bicyclist. Even when a cyclist is riding within two feet of the road’s shoulder, the law applies. Many communities have added “share the road” signs or bike lanes to ensure cyclists are safe.

But some are saying the law hasn’t made much of an impact. At least, not on motorists.

Eero Wilson, an employee at Spinning Spoke Cycle Hub, told the Times Daily, “Most people are not aware there is a law. More than anything, I think it’s up to the individual cyclist to make sure they have safety gear, flashing lights, highly visible clothing, and they’re riding safely.”

Too many times, motorists will pass bicyclists at much closer distances than mandated, which can cause a cyclist to lose concentration and put their own safety at risk.

The actions of impatient and distracted motorists continue to prove fatal for cyclists, as is evidenced by the death of a 27-year-old cyclist who was struck and killed while bicycling on Highway 280 earlier this month. But the state is trying to make more improvements.

Allison Green, ALDOT Drive Safe Alabama coordinator, said in a statement obtained by the Times Daily, “Safety is the top priority for ALDOT and Alabama‚Äôs roadways. We are working to safely integrate bicycle travel into our state transportation system, and the 3-feet passing law is one of the ways we can help improve safety on our roads.”

Alabama residents will have until July 7 to submit their input for the final draft of the state’s new Statewide Bicycle and Pedestrian Plan, which will establish a goal for the integration of walking and bicycling into the statewide transportation system. Organizers hope this input will help them decide what kinds of pedestrian and cyclist facilities should be targeted for investment on state roadways and local streets.

The current draft of the Bicycle Pedestrian Plan is currently available on the Transportation Department website. Those who would like to submit comments should send them via email or regular mail as soon as possible.

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