Can Cyclists and Drivers Share the Roads in NJ?
As the most densely populated state in the nation, New Jersey has very crowded roadways.
And when bicyclists are on the roads with cars, the dangers are amplified.
“Motorist inattention is a constant problem to the point where it’s almost like cars do not see you. We’re an obstruction as far as cars are concerned,” said Steve Seigel, a ride captain with the Central Jersey Bicycle Club.
He says riding next to or near cars can be extremely dangerous in the Garden State.
“Cars have a habit of ignoring cyclists and I’ve had a car come around me as I was making the left and almost slammed into me,” he said. “There’s no legislation in the world that’s going to prevent a car from actually hitting you, so you have to really be observant.”
Seigel stressed it’s important for drivers in cars to stay alert and pay better attention to what they’re doing.
“Just to be aware that bicyclists are on the road, and when they do see a bicyclist please be careful,” he said.
But Christopher Leusner, the police chief in Middle Township and the vice president of the New Jersey State Association of Chiefs of Police, said it’s also important for bicyclists to stay alert and exercise caution.
Bicyclists are expected to follow all laws that apply to cars on the road, while staying as far to the right as possible.
“Also, they should not travel no more than two abreast" because three or four cyclists riding side-by-side "creates a traffic hazard, slows down traffic [and] is a violation,” he said.
Seigel said bike riders always stay over to the right as much as possible unless they’re dodging hazards, including rocks, branches and gutters. When they head out on a ride that is sponsored by his club, they must stay in single file.
“If you’re passing a bicyclist in your car you need to be aware that there’s a danger for the bicyclist and make sure you have plenty of room when you’re passing the bicyclist,” he said.
Seigel recalled several instance when he had to dodge a storm drain, forcing him to swerve out into the road.
Once, he came up next to a driver and told him “you know, please next time don’t get so close to me because you almost killed me.”
Seigel pointed out biking through a shopping center, where cars are searching for spaces, can be especially hazardous.
“Some of these people need to be tested,” he said.
He believes, however, that bicyclists need to be proactive when traveling on roads with cars.
“People should actually be pointing in the direction that they’re going, if they’re slowing down they should tell the car behind them that they are slowing down or to move over for you,” he said.