Why bicycle safety is important to you
Orange County is a diverse and welcoming North Carolina community, known for its southern hospitality, natural beauty, local charm, vibrant arts scene and an active, well-rounded population. One corner of the rapidly growing Triangle region, Orange County includes the flourishing towns of Carrboro, Chapel Hill, Mebane, and Hillsborough, as well as long-established, thriving rural areas. Orange County is a desirable place to live, and as it attracts more population, the demand for space on public roads and streets also increases.
At the same time, many in the community are finding travel by bicycle appealing as they recognize bicycling as an efficient, healthy, inexpensive, and environmentally responsible means to get around. From parents and children traveling to school, to individuals using efficient transportation to get to work, to recreational enthusiasts, people riding bicycles on Orange County roads are part of the fabric of our community. tThey are friends, neighbors, school teachers, first responders, doctors, hospitality workers, and more.
As more people travel on Orange County roads, improved understanding by everyone of the laws and best practices that govern how we use these shared spaces is essential. With support from the Orange County Board of Commissioners, and the Chapel Hill Orange County Visitors Bureau, Orange County is working to advance the safety of everyone using the roads with the DRIVE SAFELY RIDE SAFELY campaign.
What is the Drive Safely Ride Safely Campaign?
The Drive Safely Ride Safely Campaign is an effort to educate residents and visitors in Orange County on NC laws pertaining to bicyclists and motorists, while promoting friendly and respectful sharing of our public roads.
Driving safely means being aware that the roads are public spaces shared with other people driving vehicles such as tractors, emergency vehicles, school buses, as well as pedestrians and bicyclists. Driving safely also means being prepared to sensibly interact with these road users.
In the state of North Carolina, the most common type of crash involving motorists and bicyclists occurs when a motorist is overtaking a person on a bicycle. These crashes happen frequently in both urban and rural locations, but in rural locations they tend to be much more serious, resulting in a large proportion of bicyclist fatalities.
The driver of a motor vehicle wishing to overtake someone on a bicycle has a responsibility to slow down and wait for a safe opportunity to do so. In 2016, legislative changes included in House Bill 959 went into effect, allowing motorists to cross a solid yellow line when passing bicyclists. The law, GS 20-150(e), states that the motorist must either give a space of four feet when passing bicycles, or go completely into the opposite (left) lane.
G.S. 20-4.01(49), the law that defines bicycles as vehicles in North Carolina, mandates that people riding bicycles follow the same laws as cars. This means that they must travel in the same direction as motor vehicles, obey all traffic control devices such as stop signs and signals, signal when turning, refrain from passing on the right, and use lights when riding at night. Furthermore, as vehicles, bicyclists may use the full lane.
Beyond legal requirements, bicyclists also have the responsibility to share the public roads and engage with other users safely and prudently.