Bicyclists who traverse New Mexico roads have a reasonable expectation of safety. Unfortunately, many motorists are not aware enough of their surroundings and accidents can occur.
Bicyclists have the same rights to be on the road as motorists – in fact, they are legally required to comply with the most of the same traffic laws as any other vehicle. They must ride as near to the right side as possible and exercise due care when passing another vehicle. But what are the requirements for motorists to be safe around bicyclists?
Few protections for cyclists
According to the League of American Cyclists, the state could do much more. The league ranks all 50 states based on bicycle friendliness, and New Mexico has never ranked higher than 40. In 2017, the most recent year for rankings, New Mexico ranked No. 44.
As part of those rankings, the league attributes points to states in several categories, one being Legislation & Enforcement. One question in this category is “Does the state have laws that provide specific protections for people who bike and walk?” New Mexico scored seven points out of 25, indicating low legal protections.
The league suggests that New Mexico adopt a “safe passing law,” requiring a minimum distance of three feet to address bicyclist safety. Current state law says vehicle must pass at a “safe distance.”
Lack of safety leads to accidents
Without laws that specifically address how to keep bicyclists safe, there is an increased risk of an accident with a motor vehicle. This is much more dangerous for a bicyclist than for a motorist, as there is little besides a helmet to protect them from injury, and the medical bills can be expensive if the injuries require long-term rehabilitation.
Hopefully New Mexico will address these safety concerns and follow some of the League of American Cyclists’s advice, making the state more bicycle-friendly.