Shared Roads, Shared Responsibilities for Bicyclists and Drivers

Bicycling organizations throughout state call on both bike riders and drivers to work together.

Editor's Note: This opinion piece originally appeared on Morristown Patch.

Tensions between bicyclists and motorists are in the spotlight this summer and we believe it’s time we all took more responsibility for cooling the confrontation and sharing the road.

We represent bicycle clubs and organizations with over 2,000 members in Northwest and Central New Jersey. Each of us is also a motorist. We understand sharing the road from behind the wheel of a car as well as on a bicycle.

We are as upset as anyone when a bicyclist does not ride safely or a group of cyclists block the road and surround a car as reportedly happened in Tewksbury this summer. Our organizations train riders on safe road sharing, criticize riders who do not, and are ready to work with police and town officials to make the roads safe for all.

We also know, firsthand, the consequences when a car or truck weighing two tons or more collides with a rider on a bicycle that weighs about 25 pounds. Our hearts go out to the families of the four cyclists alleged to have been hit from behind, sending two to the hospital as happened in Sussex County this spring.

To the motorist the consequence of driving safely and sharing the road may be a short delay. The consequence to the bicyclist could be his or her life.

Our plea to both bicyclists and motorists is simple: When we share the road, share the responsibility.

For bicyclists, that means riding single file as safely to the right as is safe and never more than two, side-by-side, even in the absence of traffic. It means being alert to traffic conditions and observing traffic signage. It means learning and following the laws that govern us, participating in safe riding clinics, and keeping our cool when drivers do not. 

For drivers, it means understanding bicyclists have a right to be on the road, that one of them could be your neighbor or a relative, and that passing safely does sometimes mean slowing down and giving the bicyclist three feet or more of clearance. Please don’t honk, tailgate, or floor it to pass. And please keep your cool even when the bicyclist does not.

We all can benefit from more dialogue and less road rage. There’s room for all of us on the roads we all pay for—and have a right to share. We’re sure that there’s not a single bicyclist or a single driver who gets out of bed in the morning with the idea of creating a dangerous situation. Let’s all work together to make our roads safer for all.

Jay Marowitz, President, Morris Area Freewheelers Bicycle Club
Jim Hunt,
Chair, Morris Area Freewheelers Foundation
Mike Kruimer,
President, Central Jersey Bicycle Club
John Kinsey,
President, Bedminster Flyers Cycling Club
Cyndi Steiner,
Executive Director, New Jersey Bike & Walk Coalition
Ethan Brook,
President, Bicycle Touring Club of North Jersey

Adam Duckworth September 04, 2012 at 05:19 PM
I think bicyclist should be on the paths the town spend so much money on for them. Coming down Middle Valley rd "woodpeckers point" with a truck and trailer, and you have 2 bicyclist pass you on both sides (common occurrence )is very dangerous for everybody. When there is 5 ft of road past the white line and they decide to ride in the middle of the lane it doesn't make sense. Often enuf also when you are stopped in the center of town at the light they come on the side of you with there bikes and when the light goes green they cut out in front of you and hold up traffic and almost cause accidents sense the road is small enuf you can pass them. If you can't go near the posted speed limit and are not able to follow driving rules as if you were in a car/motorcycle you should not be on the road.
Gerard Longo September 05, 2012 at 03:25 PM
Right on. I think motorists do enough to keep things safe, but bicyclists have to remember that the roads are frankly meant for our vehicles and not theirs. I can't tell you how many times I've driven down Valley Brook Rd. and have seen bicyclists compromise the safety of everyone by not moving over
Joseph Keyes September 05, 2012 at 03:43 PM
There seems to be a simpatico passive-aggressive relationship between some cyclists and motorists. As a cyclist, when I ride on the road I keep as rightmost as possible. When we hear an auto (and if you can’t, unplug your “i-whatever” and pay attention to the road), my wife and I fall back into single file allowing the motorist space for safe passing. As a motorist, I give deference to cyclists and slow down to allow them to move right and give me that same deference. Mostly, it works out, sometimes It doesn’t. If three abreast cyclists don’t yield, what do you do? You can’t run them off the road nor retaliate in any way—hence, the passive-aggressive behavior, so you wait until they see fit to fall into a safe formation. Such cyclist behavior is rude, annoying, dangerous, and unnecessary.
Chuck Ruff September 05, 2012 at 04:04 PM
Correction.... when the roads around Long Valley were created, automobiles didn't even exist. They were NOT created exclusively for automobiles, that's an arrogant attitude.
Gerard Longo September 06, 2012 at 02:58 PM
Just stating the facts. There are no bike lanes in town (to my knowledge) and we have almost exclusively two-lane roads regulated for vehicular use. Not arrogant, just factual. The original intent of the roads doesn't reflect the present day


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