A few weeks ago, NewWest.Net featured an article on the hazards cyclists face on our roadways. In the article, Missoula triathlete Lindsey Corbin, who has ridden her bike in more places than I can list, said she has more “negative interactions” here in Montana than anywhere else. When I read that, I wanted to disagree, but I have also ridden in a lot of places, even on the congested roads in Europe, and sadly, she might be right.
But at least Montana is making one move to the roads safer for cyclists.
Commendably, and with the counsel of a committee of road cyclists from around the state, the Montana Motor Vehicle Department (MVD) allowed me to re-write the three-page bicycle section of the Montana Driver’s Manual, which is now being distributed. It replaces a woefully outdated bicycle section written decades ago and constantly re-used with minor if any updating.
In it, I emphasized the “same road, same rules, same rights” philosophy and urged motorists to “share the road, not the lane.”
“The fact is bicycling is growing, for sport and health, and the rising cost of gas will further increase the number of bicyclists,” Kristine Thatcher, MVD Field Operations Bureau Chief told NewWest.Net, “so we really needed to get more information on these important safety issues out there.”
And we need to do even more to remind drivers how to drive with bicyclists, she believes. Her staff is considering other educational projects aimed drivers in an attempt to make the roads safer for cyclists. “We need to remind motorists to be more careful and sensitive around bicyclists,” she notes.
In discussing the new manual with NewWest.Net, Thatcher was concerned that there is no good way for her division to make sure the people who need to see this important educational message will actually see it. “It would be nice to have all drivers read this new manual,” she said.
In Montana, licensed drivers never have to be re-tested or read the driver’s manual unless they inadvertently let their license expire. They have to renew licenses every eight years, but there is no test, so drivers rarely if ever read the manual. New residents must read their manual to get their first Montana driver’s license, as do high school students getting their first licenses.
Driver’s education teachers in Montana receive to excellent guidance on driving with cyclists from the Montana Department of Public Instruction and pass this onto students learning to drive. But adult drivers rarely see updated information on sharing the roads with cyclists or any other new developments such as how to drive roundabouts.
You can stop at any driver’s license station for a copy of the new manual or view in online here. Search for the title “Bicyclists and Motorists” on Page 46.
(For a companion commentary on the conflict between cyclists and motorists, click here.)