The other day I suggested that we need to include more information about the rights and responsibilities of pedestrians, bicyclists, and motorcyclists in our driver training programs. Doing so would very likely improve relations between road users, and it might even reduce collisions (and the subsequent injuries and deaths).
If we were, in fact, able to modify our driver training programs to require motor vehicle operators to learn more about bicyclists’ rights and the issues associated with sharing the road with bicyclists, I believe it would also place a greater responsibility on all bicyclists to be aware of, and adhere to, the rules of the road, regardless of their age or experience.
Many bicyclists (I’d argue that a majority of those I encounter), appear to be riding their bicycles exactly as they learned to ride them when they were children. In other words, they get on their bikes and ride without giving any thought to the rules of the road. Often they appear to be in a modified pedestrian mode with their only concern being the avoidance of cars, and they seem to be riding with the assumption that cars own the road and as bicyclists they have no rights or responsibilities other than those they intuitively take on for themselves.
As it is now, bicyclists are, by law, given nearly the same rights to the road as motorists, and they’re also expected to obey the same traffic laws as motorists, yet they receive absolutely no training and there are no requirements to understand the laws under which they operate. It begs the question, how are bicyclists supposed to know how to obey the rules of the road, when they may not even be aware of those rules and how they apply to bicycles?
The obvious (though albeit controversial) answer is mandatory training and certification for bicyclists; in other words, a Bicycle Rider’s License. There are many pitfalls to such an approach, not the least of which is that it would very likely discourage bicycle use. Plus, the costs associated with implementing such a program is a guaranteed non-starter in our current economy. You have to wonder though, if requiring a bicycle rider’s license wouldn’t elevate the bicycle’s stature and help people see it as a real vehicle worthy of consideration as an alternative to the automobile, while also creating a group of more highly skilled, responsible bicyclists who are more well-equipped to interact effectively with other road users.