Bicyclists and Motorists: The Battle for Road Space

Most road lanes were designed for one car to navigate comfortably. Increasingly, we see roads with bike lanes, but these are by no means universal. Many bikes and motor vehicles are forced to share spaces that do not offer either a comfortable amount of space to navigate.

Too many riders are inadvertently sideswiped by passing vehicles or pushed so far towards the curb that they run the risk of hitting debris, potholes or stationary parked cars. How can you position yourself to prevent injury while biking New Mexico’s roads?

Maintain proper distance from passing cars

Many states have safe passing laws that regulate how much space a vehicle must give a bike when passing. Most states adopt a three-foot rule, with a few requiring as much as four to six feet between bikes and passing cars. New Mexico does not currently have a safe passing law, but you should remember this rule as a benchmark distance for safe passing.

Vehicles ultimately determine how close they are when they pass, but you can make yourself more visible to drivers. Wear bright colors and reflective gear to ensure that cars see you as they approach. Vehicles are more likely to give you space to maneuver if they can see you and determine your position on the road.

Be wary of parked vehicles

Driving on the right-hand side of the roadway can reduce your chances of being hit by a moving car, but it increases your chances of being struck by a parked vehicle. As strange as it sounds, parked cars also pose a threat to bicyclists.

New Mexico has a “dooring law” that makes it a misdemeanor for people to open car doors into near side traffic unless it is reasonably safe to do so. Drivers can also receive a misdemeanor for leaving a car door open for a longer period than necessary to accommodate passengers.

Despite these laws, drivers may thoughtlessly open car doors without checking for approaching vehicles or bikes. This may damage an oncoming car, but hitting a metal car door can severely injure or kill an approaching biker.

Always be aware as you approach parked cars. Try to gauge whether or not they have a driver inside and if you are at risk for being hit by a door.

Use common sense when choosing your positioning

Unlike many states, New Mexico does not explicitly prohibit bicycling on sidewalks. If you are in a situation where a sidewalk is pedestrian-free, and the street conditions are dangerous, consider temporarily riding on the sidewalk until conditions improve.

When you are on the road, you are required to ride as close to the right side of the roadway as possible. If the street has an unusually high level of debris, deep potholes or other issues it may be time to look for a sidewalk or alternative route.

If you are involved in a biking accident that causes serious injury, consider contacting an attorney. An attorney can evaluate your case and determine who is at fault. They can help you find justice and gain the compensation that is due to you.


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