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What responsibilities do motorists have when sharing the road with a bicycle?

Whether bicycling through your neighborhood or on city streets, you share the road with a variety of other cyclists, pedestrians and motorists when bicycling. While bicyclists are expected to follow the rules of the road, drivers must also take specific steps to keep cyclists safe. What does the law say about drivers’ responsibility to the cyclists they share the road with?

Motorists must provide bicyclists with space.

Under Michigan law, drivers must give bicyclists at least 3 feet of space when passing them, and drivers who cannot offer this space must slow to a speed where they can pass safely and at a safe distance. They must also ensure that they only reenter the lane when they have given cyclists enough clearance to maintain their safety.

Motorists must follow at a speed that allows them to react appropriately.

Bicyclists sometimes need to react to sudden hazards—moving to avoid dangerous potholes, for example. Drivers sharing the road with them must follow at a safe distance and drive slowly enough that they can react appropriately to these course adjustments.

Motorists must take care when opening doors.

Cars do not have to be in motion to pose a risk to cyclists. If the door of a vehicle opens suddenly, it can put cyclists in danger of crashing into the door, being struck by an opening door or swerving into traffic to avoid it. Because of the challenges that opening doors can cause, motorists have a responsibility to keep their door from impeding traffic, including bicycle traffic on the road or in marked bicycle lanes.

What if a bicyclist was injured by a motor vehicle?

Because cyclists are relatively unprotected compared to cars or trucks, the injuries sustained in an accident can be significant. If you or a loved one were harmed by a motor vehicle while bicycling, you may be able to hold drivers responsible for their part in this accident. This could allow you to receive the financial and medical support necessary to heal.

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