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Student Drivers Learn To Co-Exist With Cyclists
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With more and more bicyclists on the road, drivers have to learn how to share. While fewer bicyclists were hurt on Ohio roads last year, the number of riders killed ticked up slightly. Ohio driver’s ed instruction has been slow to keep up with the rising number of bicycle commuters. But as WOSU reports, student drivers are learning more than ever about how to co-exist with cyclists.
â€œEverybody know what class theyâ€™re here for? Class number? Five. Is there anybody who thought this was something else? OK.â€
Itâ€™s 6 oâ€™clock at the Columbus Driving Academy in Reynoldsburg. A couple dozen teenagers sit quietly waiting to delve into the eveningâ€™s curriculum: â€œSharing the Road.â€
Students turn their attention to a large television.
â€œNow, letâ€™s go over the classroom rules.â€
Driving instructor Anthony Thomas runs a tight ship.
â€œIf youâ€™re later than five minutes, we donâ€™t have to let you in.â€
Thomas has taught young drivers for 14 years. And he knows thereâ€™s a lot of material to cover during the next three hours. About half of it will be spent on bicycles, motorcycles, pedestrians and large vehicles.
But driverâ€™s ed students havenâ€™t always received extensive information about sharing the road with bicycles. Patricia Kovacs works with the Ohio Bicycle Federation.
â€œThere was a very limited amount of information…There was only about one page in the driver manual and only about a half a page in the driverâ€™s ed curriculum.â€
Kovacs has helped the Ohio Department of Public Safety update and expand the motor vehicle law digest and driverâ€™s ed curriculum.
â€œSo in 2006 there was a better bicycling bill that made some changes to the laws, and they hadnâ€™t been reflected in the driver manual,” she said. “So around 2012 the driver manual was updated. And we just finished reviewing the curriculum, and we have added a bunch of stuff to that. So I think itâ€™s going to be a lot better.â€
State law requires driverâ€™s ed students to receive 24 hours of classroom instruction. How much of that time is devoted to bicycles is up to the individual schools.
Valerie Luptak oversees the public safety departmentâ€™s driver training program.
â€œWe provide our guidelines through our curriculum, and then they fill in the additional information.â€
But are students getting enough? Luptak said she thinks so. Increasing lecture time would take a change in state law.
â€œWe canâ€™t really expand too much without going legislatively to request longer hours in the classroom. I would say that we cover it pretty well, but thereâ€™s always room for improvement,” Luptak said.
The â€œsharing the roadâ€ section in the driverâ€™s manual and curriculum includes information on safely passing bicycles, hand signals, and the rules bike riders must follow. Next yearâ€™s revision will include additinal signs and pavement markings. The Ohio Bicycle Federationâ€™s Kovacs helped draft the material.
â€œIt wasnâ€™t clear what the hand signals were for cyclists. They have a picture in the digest about a car driver using hand signals…but now thatâ€™s reflected in the text. There were changes made to why cyclists donâ€™t always have to ride as far right as practicable, so that all got added.â€
Back at the Columbus Driving School in Reynoldsburg students discuss how to safely pass a cyclist.
â€œSo slow down and create a wide space. If you pass a bicyclist, what do you think is a wide space? At least how many feet?â€
Leon Evergin, 16, of Columbus, said he thinks the school is teaching enough about sharing the road. He said he put the most important thing heâ€™s learned â€“ patience â€“ to the test when on a drive with his dad around the Ohio State campus.
â€œI just, you know, followed behind the bike. I just, I didnâ€™t try to ride him too hard,” he said. “I didnâ€™t speed past him when I went to pass him. I just kind of eased out and went past him.â€
Pariss Gray, 15, of Reynoldburg, said she thinks the driverâ€™s manual could have had some more information. The class on sharing the road, she said, helped fill in the gaps.
â€œI think weâ€™re getting a sufficient amount right now, but, I mean, I guess a little bit more would work because I didnâ€™t even know half the things we learned. Like I had no idea of some of those rules and laws.â€
The studentâ€™s knowledge will be put to the test on the 40-question driver license exam. But only two questions relate to bicycles.
Again, the department of public safetyâ€™s Valerie Luptak.
â€œThereâ€™s a lot of other categories you have to hit on. So I really think that two questions is sufficient.
Driving instructor Anthony Thomas said the biggest test isnâ€™t at the BMV. He said itâ€™s behind the wheel.
â€œThis is just a paper test, but youâ€™re going to be tested every time you get out there on the road with the things that weâ€™re trying to teach you,” Thomas said. “And I think thatâ€™s where it comes in to actually register, â€˜OK, this is what Iâ€™ve learned. I didnâ€™t handle that situation right. How can I now do that a little bit better going forward?â€™â€