Americans have been observing National Bike Month each May for 56 years.
Timed to coincide with the arrival of warmer weather, the event has inspired countless bike rides, safety inspections, "share the road" promotions, and other celebrations of bicycling in communities across the nation.
In Michigan, state officials are reminding drivers to look out for bicyclists on the road to prevent crashes this month.
The state says that there were 1,970 reported crashes involving bicyclists in Michigan last year. Those crashes resulted in 1,598 injuries and 20 fatalities.
The number of deaths resulting from crashes involving bicyclists is down 17 percent from 2011.
"While this data suggests some improvement, drivers must remain focused at all times when they get behind the wheel and share the road," said State Transportation Director Kirk T. Steudle. "These crashes are avoidable. Drivers should always be alert and pass slower moving traffic, including bicyclists, from a safe distance."
In addition to May being National Bike Month, Bike to Work Week is May 13-17, with today designated as Bike to Work Day.
"We join other transportation agencies to raise awareness and promote our safety message: 'Give 'em Space, Make it Safe, Please Share the Road,'" said Steudle.
Bicycling is a form of transportation that many people choose to use for both economic and health benefits.
Bicyclists may legally ride on Michigan roads, except limited access freeways, and have the same rights and responsibilities as motorists, says the League of Michigan Bicyclists.
Both bicyclists and drivers need to share responsibility for avoiding conflicts and communicate intentions while using the roadway.
Tips for sharing the road:
- Be courteous to bicyclists and share the road safely with them.
- Do not follow bicycles closely. They can stop and maneuver quickly. Be prepared for a bicyclist to swerve to avoid a road hazard.
- When parking your vehicle, check your mirrors before opening your door. Opening a vehicle door in the path of a bicyclist is dangerous and illegal.
When passing a bicyclist:
- If there is oncoming traffic, slow down and wait to pass when traffic clears.
- Do not attempt to "squeeze by." Leave sufficient space between you and the bicyclist - at least 3 feet is recommended between your side mirror and the bicyclist. Allow more space, at least 5 feet is recommended, for higher speed roads or if a group of bicyclists is present. When driving a larger vehicle, leave extra room to accommodate for extended wheel wells, mirrors or other equipment that can interfere with a bicyclist.
- If the road has a centerline rumble strip, you may cross over it to ensure a safe passing distance.
- Check carefully for bicyclists in your blind spots by glancing over your shoulder and using your rear and side view mirrors, use your turn signals and allow adequate room to pass.
- Return to the lane when the bicyclist can clearly be seen in the rearview mirror.
- A fast moving vehicle creates a lot of airflow and draft around it. Be mindful that your vehicle's "wind blast" can startle or even knock a bicyclist off balance, increasing the risks of a crash.
- Avoid blasting the horn, as loud noises can surprise the bicyclist and may cause a crash.
When turning and at intersections:
- Watch for oncoming bicyclists and other small vehicles. Their smaller size can make it difficult to judge their distance and speed.
- Yield to a bicyclist preparing to make a left turn
- Before turning right at an intersection, into a driveway, or pulling off the road, check for bicyclists coming up from behind on the shoulder of the road or in a bicycle lane. As appropriate, yield and allow them to pass before turning. Do not overtake a bicyclist and turn right unless it is safe to do so.
- Obey all lane markings. Do not use a bicycle lane as a passing or turning lane.
Tips for safe bicycling:
- Always ride in the same direction as other traffic. Never ride against the flow of traffic.
- Obey all traffic laws, including traffic signs, traffic signals and lane markings.
- When riding on the road, stay as far to the right as practical.
- Ride predictably in a straight line of travel.
- Ride defensively and assume that other drivers do not see you.
- Wear a bicycle safety helmet and light colored or reflective clothing.
- Use the appropriate hand signals when turning, slowing or stopping.
- Do not ride more than two abreast in a single lane.
- When entering a roundabout, ride in the center of the lane, traveling at or near the speed of circulating traffic. Bicyclists may also walk their bicycles through the intersection using the roundabout's pedestrian crosswalks.
- If riding at night, a front white headlight and rear red reflector are required by law.