How are Tri-State drivers and cyclists taught to 'share the road' with each other?

Posted at 5:11 AM, May 07, 2019

Travis Gysegem was headed home from work when his bike ride nearly turned into an ambulance ride.

The Mount Auburn resident was riding up Sycamore Street near Ziegler Park when he noticed a truck approaching from the opposite direction.

"As the truck was approaching, it turned on its bright lights and veered over the center of the line into my space," he said. "I had to veer off to the side to avoid being struck by one of its mirrors.

"It was a very close call," Gysegem continued. "After I caught my breath, I really thought, you know, 'Why would a driver do this?'"

One possible explanation: Only a minuscule portion of the Ohio Driver's Manual addresses a driver's responsibility to share the road with other types of vehicle users. Out of more than 80 pages, the manual devotes four bullet points — roughly a quarter of a page — to sharing the road with bicyclists. The Kentucky Driver's Manual, just shy of 70 pages, devotes a bit more space — six bullet points.

Both manuals also explain when a pedestrian has the right-of-way, although, as WCPO has previously reported, that's a question that's often more complicated than it might seem.

No one from the Ohio Bureau of Motor Vehicles was immediately available for an interview, but spokeswoman Lindsey Bohrer told WCPO that roughly seven out of 47 written driver's exam questions are devoted to principles surrounding sharing the road with more vulnerable road users such as bicyclists, pedestrians and people on motorcycles. The other 40 address issues of maneuverability and traffic laws.

Mike Belcuore heads up AAA's regional driving school. He said he tries to emphasize sharing the road with his students.

"(Bicyclists) are road users. A lot of people will like to assume that, well, if there’s a sidewalk, they should be up there," he said. "No. They’re supposed to be on the road using the road like you are and following the road rules like a motorist."

Belcuore said this principle extends out into field lessons.

"I’m out on a road with a kid in the car, and we get behind a bicyclist that doesn’t have a bike lane, I teach them, 'You hang back until opposing traffic is gone and then go around them like you were passing another vehicle,'" he said.

Belcuore likes to take his students into Downtown so that they can interact with other types of road users such as bicyclists, pedestrians and people riding motorized scooters.

"They get to interact with that a little more than maybe in their neighborhood and everything like that," he said. "And they also get to see the unpredictability of a pedestrian or something on the roadway that may just step out and you need be always searching and being aware."

However, not every driver on Ohio roads has gone through AAA's driver training program. Many only have the Ohio Driver's Manual to rely on.

WCPO solicited response on Twitter from cyclists who have been scolded to "get off the road." Numerous cyclists responded:

Belcuore said that sometimes it takes a close-call encounter between a driver and a vulnerable road-user like a cyclist or pedestrian for the reality of the road rules to set in. He described an incident that occurred when his son was training behind the wheel.

"They went Downtown and had a 6-year-old run in front of the car out from behind two parked cars, and my son was horrified," he told WCPO. "It scared him."

Gysegem agreed those close-call moments can help but said it might extend beyond driver's education.

"I think being in a close call like I was helps, but I think just having more empathy for other people really helps, as well," he said. "I don’t expect everyone to be out there on a bicycle, but I do expect everyone to be courteous and be safe on the roads."

The Ohio BMV would not release a sample test for WCPO to examine.