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North Carolina is ranked the 18th-friendliest state for bicyclists. Advocates say there's still room for improvement

Cyclists in the Carolinas say it's time to make sure both states protect riders on two wheels.

CHARLOTTE, N.C. — North Carolina is the 18th-friendliest state in the country for bicyclists, according to the League of American Bicyclists. The report is based on surveys completed by state departments of transportation and state bicycling advocacy groups.

NC's report card noted several bicycle-friendly actions in the Tar Heel State, like a statewide bike plan and funding for pedestrian and bicycle planning.

For cycling enthusiasts like Marilyn Jager, it’s important that roadways are safe for all who use them.

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“Cycling has really grown here in Charlotte. It's been amazing,” she said. “and I don't see it stopping.”

Terry Lansdell, the director of BikeWalkNC, said the design of the roads is key to safety.

“Those spaces can be improved by giving more room for cyclists, creating more passing opportunities for motorists, and creating a roadway that has everybody represented on it: drivers, bus transits, pedestrians, and cyclists," he said.

He adds that speed is another concern.

“The way our roads are designed with higher speeds, and less accommodation, less space for bicycles or active mobility or transferred transit to be a part of it --  those conflict areas become deadly,” said Lansdell.

In fact, the report card also notes the rate of deadly bicycle accidents in North Carolina is higher than the national average. More than 65% of those crashes happen on state-owned roads.

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“You're able to survive a 25 mile an hour crash 80% of the time, but you're not able to survive a 45 mile an hour crash 80% of the time,” said Lansdell.

The state fell short on the traffic laws & practices with a C+. It received a C for the education & encouragement aspect.

We're lacking in driver's education, in our schools and for adults to become better drivers," Landsell said. "On our driving test, we only have two questions out of the three test choices that have any bicycle questions at all."

BikeWalkNC offers programs teaching drivers bicyclists’ hand signals, rules of the road, and about sharing the road. He said it’s about protecting the most vulnerable road users.

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Jager, who has been in an accident involving a motorist said there are many aspects of safety that need to be covered.

We're so distracted with all the electronics and everything that we have,” she said. “Put your head down for a second -- boom, that could be a second of someone's life."

The state also dropped in ranking because it only requires drivers to give at least two feet of space when passing.

The length of an arm is all we're required to give now by law," explained Lansdell. "We want to give that a little bit more, we want to give it and get it to three feet.”

RELATED: Bicyclists applaud new protected lanes in Charlotte

He hopes this encourages the state to take more action to improve the safety and accessibility of bicycling in North Carolina.

South Carolina is far lower on the list for bicycle friendliness at 43rd in the country. The league suggests the state take several actions to improve its score, including adopting a safe passing law of at least three feet and a statewide bike plan. It also recommends investing more money on its roads to improve infrastructure and bike safety. Click here for South Carolina's Full report card.

WCNC Charlotte is committed to reporting on the issues facing the communities we serve. We tell the stories of people working to solve persistent social problems. We examine how problems can be solved or addressed to improve the quality of life and make a positive difference. WCNC Charlotte is seeking solutions for you. Send your tips or questions to newstips@wcnc.com.

Contact Jesse Pierre at jpierrepet@wcnc.com or follow her on FacebookTwitter and Instagram.

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