Ethics in Driving

“Too often, bicyclists are treated as scapegoats for the consequences of negligent motoring behaviors.”  –BikeWalk NC on developing a culture of driving at a safe speed

The article the leading quote is from reminded me of a main barrier for promoting bicycling.  The State Traffic Engineer is quoted as indicating bicyclists should ride on the right edge of a narrow rural lane road.  The engineer’s guidance is opposite of what we know to be safe.  The League of American Bicyclists smart cycling guide advises “when a lane is too narrow to share safely, ride in the middle of the lane”.   What can we do about this discrepancy?

We begin with taking responsibility for making bicycling safety common knowledge.  Part of this process is releasing any prejudices that prevent us from acting on right knowledge even when we know it to be true.  Often times when people say conditions are unsafe for bicycling or walking, the unspoken part is that it is unsafe because of the way people are driving.  If we are driving and our braking distance exceeds the sight distance, we are driving too fast for conditions.  Driving too fast for conditions is a behavior that makes roads unsafe for all users.  BikeWalk NC concludes that developing a culture of safer speeds involves shifting the focus away from blaming vulnerable people using the road to raising the expectations for drivers.

This mindset for universal road safety is essential for those in leadership positions.  We can not afford for State Engineers to be aloof on safety.  When I first started talking to people about bike safety, I was shocked with how many people either had the wrong idea or denied the safety of bicyclists.  I spoke to a county supervisor and a board member of a bicycling advocacy organization that expressed the exact sentiment as this State Engineer.  Rather than blaming, we can simply begin by cultivating appropriate attitudes based on responsibility and safety.  Individuals changing can inspire confidence.  We have to change the way we think about driving cars by envisioning driving in a way that is compatible with bicycling, walking, and safety for all.


BikeWalkNC is a cutting edge advocacy group.  I’m really impressed by the way they are leading the way through persistent challenges by fostering clear and constructive dialogue.  Thank you!

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