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New Regulations Make It Safer For Bikes To Share The Road

Keri Caffrey
American Bicycling Education Association

North Carolina lawmakers recently approved changes to a traffic law intended to protect bike commuters.

House Bill 959 will soon require cyclists to add taillights or wear reflector vests at night. It also increases penalties for aggressive drivers.

Many of these changes came from the North Carolina Department of Transportation's bike safety study.  NC DOT says more than 2,400 pedestrians and 960 bicyclists are hit by vehicles in North Carolina each year, making it one of the least safe states in the US for walking and cycling.

Lisa Riegle runs Bike Walk NC, a group that lobbies to make the roadways more bike-friendly. She's excited about a provision in HB 959 that allows cars to pass cyclists whenever it's safe.

"The biggest advocacy win for us is the ability to cross the solid center line when they come across a bicyclist, and then you'd just go around the bicyclist like you would if it's not a solid center line," she said. "So, it's the exact same thing. It's just saying that if you know you can pass, you can cross the solid center line."

HB 959 will roll out in stages, with changes to the passing lane law taking effect on October 1 and the requirement to wear taillights on December 1.

Riegle says roads are safer when motorists and cyclists understand the rules.

"That's our ultimate goal, is to have bicyclists and motorists sharing the road and getting along because there's no need to have frustration on either side, and we think this is one step in that direction," she said.

Rebecca Martinez produces podcasts at WUNC. She’s been at the station since 2013, when she produced Morning Edition and reported for newscasts and radio features. Rebecca also serves on WUNC’s Inclusion, Diversity, Equity and Accountability (IDEA) Committee.
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