DOT calls for more separation between cars, cyclists

Posted December 29, 2015 1:29 p.m. EST
Updated December 30, 2015 10:18 a.m. EST

— 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."