DOT calls for more separation between cars, cyclists

Posted December 29, 2015
Updated December 30, 2015

— The state Department of Transportation is recommending several changes to state law to keep vehicles and bicyclists farther apart and increase safety.

Nineteen cyclists are killed and more than 650 are hit by vehicles in North Carolina each year, on average, according to the DOT, and state lawmakers passed legislation in June asking the agency to study ways to improve bicycle safety and to report back by the end of the year.

The 10-page report calls for giving drivers more leeway to cross a center line when passing a cyclist so that there's are least 4 feet between the vehicle and the bike. Currently, state law calls for a 2-foot passing distance.

A bill that would have allowed more passing of slower vehicles on state roads stalled in the General Assembly amid concerns of an increase in head-on collisions.

The DOT also wants to limit cyclists from riding more than two abreast, require them to stay as far to the right as possible in the furthest right lane and require that bikes be equipped with headlights and taillights or that cyclists wear reflective clothing. The agency also said that local governments should be allowed to have registration permits for groups of 30 or more cyclists.

"Some of these group rides – not all of them, but some of these group rides – are the ones creating the majority of the concerns," State Traffic Engineer Kevin Lacy said.

Some cyclists are balking at the proposed rules, saying it's safer for them if they ride in the middle of a lane rather than along the right shoulder.

"(It helps) to deter other drivers from passing within the same lane," said Steve Goodridge, a board member of advocacy group BikeWalk NC. "It's all about how we share the roads we have, and that requires us to understand best practices."


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  • Mark Cooper Dec 31, 2015
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    Be careful what you mention. It may give the legislators a way "in" to your pocket book even on electrics or hybrids. Honestly they should already have this in the works but once again our legislation will no anticipate the decline of gas use (ie the decline of the gas tax revenue) as electrics and hybrids get more prominent.

    They should look at mileage/weight based road taxation. The readings and GVWR are already there on state inspections. Im sure some will find a way to manipulate the system but no diff than all the "Off Road" diesel getting burned in highway vehicles now.

  • Brian Huff Dec 30, 2015
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    Cool!!! We can finally get all those darn hybrids and electric cars off the roads since they don't pay for it..

    I would like to see the state adopt and enforce the 'Idaho Stop' for bikes. Where stop sign is a yield and stop light is a hard stop.

  • Dirk Snedly Dec 30, 2015
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    The gas tax collected from fueling automobiles pays for the roads. The Self-Righteous Bicycle Fairy doesn't pay to build roads.

  • John Snow Dec 30, 2015
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    Bicyclists should be limited to using roads that have a wide enough shoulder or two lanes in each direction. Or they can do like my family does and go to the neuse river greenway or one of the many other greenways.

  • Kathleen Newberg Dec 30, 2015
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    Bike lanes are essential. Nothing else will ever work.

  • Lee Howell Dec 30, 2015
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    Being a runner I do see some of the points made by cyclists on this page. Luckily for runners we can avoid roads by using trails and sidewalks. Road cyclists do not have this advantage and not everyone likes to trail/mountain bike. There is no way in hades I would ever consider cycling on the roads around here. Too much traffic and too many drivers not paying attention!
    If cyclists are also users of the road then they should have to have working front and rear lights, go through inspections each year, and pay a registration renewal fee just like a vehicle. Same for all of these little scooters too. Let that money go towards building infrastructure to make cycling safer such as independent cycling parks or larger bike lanes. They should also be ticketed for violating traffic laws just like a driver would as well. It is only getting more crowded on the road.

  • Mark Cooper Dec 30, 2015
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    I am not saying you do not have the right, you absolutely do just as a cute 18 year old girl has the right to walk around the bad part of town without being harassed but is that a wise decision for her to try to do? It is not about use rights it is about inadequate design.

    There is a lot of "shoulda" in this world but the realistic fact is the roads were not designed to be shared in the manner attempted. Call the DOT and ask it is really that simple. When HWY 751 was designed bicycles were not in the consideration and imagine that, it is a road that sees a lot of close calls and complaints. Again, I am not saying cyclist do not have the right but it would be intellectually dishonest to think you would be a no greater risk if you rode on 751 vs roads that have a bike lane (ie designed for such).

    It is trying to "mash" a square peg in a round hole no matter how many times people don't like to hear it.

  • Jonathan Barnes Dec 29, 2015
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    Also until the General Assembly study committee sends their report on Dec 31st, it's technically still legal for cyclists to ride two abreast in NC. Especially since they are allowed to use an entire lane when it is the safest option.

  • mhufford Dec 29, 2015

    My biggest complaint is the bicycle riders who do not stop at a stop light. Several times on Lead Mine rd in Raleigh a cyclist has darted out from Harvest Oak dr right in front of me. Unlike a car he can not move fast enough to get out of my way. The last time he did it it was by the grace of God that I was able to stop. I don't what he's thinking but the fact is a Chevy Tahoe does NOT stop on a quarter much less a dime. I all but hit his stupid $! $$. This same rider had done this before. He is going to get himself killed running these stop lights. I just hope it isn't my truck he messes up doing it. I must say he isn't the only one. I swear some of them have a death wish.

  • LetsBeFair Dec 29, 2015

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    Its where you have it all wrong. Cyclists are also users of the road. Its not a road for 'cars' its also for bikes. they have an equal right to the road if they even want to ride in the middle. did you ever read you driving manual?