New NC law changes rules of the road for drivers and cyclists

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GREENVILLE, N.C. (WNCT) – State roads are getting safer for drivers and bicyclists thanks to a new state law changing the rules of the road.

According to the North Carolina Department of Transportation, 19 cyclists are killed and more than 650 are hurt on state roads on average every year. The main reason for these crashes is impatient drivers. The new law aims to fix that by enforcing new policies for both drivers and cyclists.

There are three main parts to the law. Drivers will now be able to legally pass bicycles or mopeds in no-passing zones, as long as there’s a buffer of at least 4 feet. This had previously said only 2 feet. Aggressive drivers who cause bikers to move lanes, leave the road, or crash will now face stiffer penalties, higher fines, and risk losing their license. Bicyclists will have to use new hand signals, add a light to the back of the bike, and wear reflective clothing at night.

Brian Glover is chairman of the Greenville Bicycle and Pedestrian Commission. He says the new law is critical on rural roads in the East.

“There are some places, particularly on the outskirts of town where you do have some of these no passing zones and a lot of people have reported to me very close passes where people have been within a foot of them, which is terrifying,” Glover said.

Not everyone is happy with the law though. Will Smith works at Bicycle Post and bikes around Greenville. He says this doesn’t go far enough.

“We have several customers who are now wearing front and back body cams. They come in here sometimes and show us pictures of how close motorists get to them from the cyclist perspective. That 4 feet, it may be 4 feet, but from the cyclist perspective, that’s really close and really dangerous,” Smith said.

Greenville is working to become more bike-friendly. The city has added several bike lanes over the past couple years and is now planning to add more bike paths and greenways in the near future.

Questions still remain about whether bicyclists should be allowed to ride side by side, or if they should have to carry identification on them. The group BikeWalk NC says it will push for more changes to make bicyclists safer in the next legislative session.

The new law takes effect October 1.

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