Conflicts between cyclists and drivers have existed for a long time. While many of these “disagreements” may have a true point of view, it never helps when one party refuses to adjust or see the other’s perspective. Neither bicycles nor automobiles are likely to become obsolete anytime soon, so it’s best to try and get along.
“Sharing the road with cars can be dangerous, but there are things to keep in mind to help protect yourself and foster a healthier relationship between motorists and cyclists; while you can’t control the actions of others, you can control how you drive or ride, and conduct yourself on the road.”
Our own behaviors on the road, as well as those of others around us, can sometimes put us in danger or make driving and riding unpleasant and uncomfortable. For example, drivers that overtake bikes too closely, often accidentally, generate intimidation and upset. Similarly, cyclists can put themselves in risk (deliberately or unwittingly) by their activities, such as riding off the pavement and into the road, which accounts for around a fifth of serious cycling injuries and is exceedingly inconvenient for motorists.
It’s easy to forget (especially if you don’t pedal) that a cyclist lacks the same level of protection as a driver and that even small collisions can cause significant injury. On the other hand, it’s easy to forget that vehicles have a hard time seeing cyclists, especially in the dark, or anticipating what they’re going to do, and that they may not understand why you adopt the ‘Primary Position’ on the road.
What cyclists would like drivers to know:
• They are alarmed by inattentive driving.
• They must stay clear of the gutter in order to avoid potholes and debris.
• When they turn, they feel exposed.
• Close overtaking makes them feel very threatened.
• They aren’t trying to obstruct you or slow you down on purpose.
• When they ride in the middle of their lane, it’s so they can see and be seen better, and it’s also because there isn’t enough room for drivers to safely overtake them.
• When large vehicles turn at intersections, they are put in a high risk situation.
What drivers would like cyclists to know:
• They have a hard time seeing bikes that don’t have lights on at night.
• They are irritated when bikes disregard traffic lights.
• When excessively bright cycle lights are not adjusted properly, they become dazzled.
• They are bickered when bikers ride two abreast (despite the fact that it is not unlawful).
• It’s sometimes impossible for them to forecast what a cyclist will do.
• They are always perplexed as to why bicycles ride in the middle of the lane.
• Even with all of their extra mirrors, huge vehicle drivers may find it difficult to see bikes on their nearside.
Drivers may find it confusing or difficult to share the road with cyclists, however, so here are some tips on how to do so effectively and safely.
1. Use caution when turning – Cyclists ride on the right side of the road, so a quick turn could hit an unsuspecting rider. Before turning, check your mirrors and be aware of any blind spots. Make a complete stop at a stop sign or red light to allow bikers to pass and to check for unseen riders.
2. Pass slowly and cautiously – Allow plenty of room for your car to safely pass and travel ahead of cyclists. Passing at a slower speed is also recommended. If you accidentally hit or swipe a cyclist, the speed with which you collide can have a significant impact on the severity of the injury.
3. Stay out of the bike lanes when driving, pulling over, or parking (even if it’s “just for a minute”) – These lanes are designated areas on the road where cyclists can ride safely and freely. Maneuvering out of the bike lane and into the lane of traffic in order to avoid your car can be a tricky and dangerous move for riders.
4. Allow them space – As a general rule, drivers must leave at least three feet between their vehicle and any cyclists ahead of them. Allow enough space between your vehicle and the cyclists ahead of you.
5. Yield – Give cyclists the right of way. Allowing them to go first is always the safer option, as it allows them to travel along an open, safe path. At intersections, make eye contact with cyclists to acknowledge their presence and signal that they are free to pass.
6. Don’t Assume – Not all riders are as proficient as you expect them to be; they may swerve, brake suddenly, or even fall. Even experienced bicyclists may have a difficult time avoiding obstacles on the side of the road, such as debris or potholes. So don’t assume they’ll always stay along the side of the road in a straight line; be aware of their movements.
7. Keep the Kids in Mind – Children on bicycles are smaller and more difficult to spot on the road, especially for drivers of larger vehicles. At crosswalks and intersections, be cautious and considerate. Kids are less aware of their surroundings and when crossing the street is safe. Wait and allow them to cross safely and give them the right of way.
8. Don’t “door” them – When the occupant of a parked car quickly opens their car door on an unsuspecting cyclist who is hit or runs into it, this is known as “dooring.” Before you open your door, make sure the area around you is clear.
On the same note, here are 10 cycling etiquette tips to keep in mind when sharing the road with drivers.
1. Ride with traffic, not against it – Ride in the same direction as the flow of traffic. Riding against traffic is not only illegal, but it is also dangerous. Drivers are looking for cars that are traveling in the same direction as them, and the same is true when they see bikes.
2. Ride on the road, not the sidewalk. – Ride on the shoulder of the road rather than the sidewalk whenever possible. Because cars will be expecting you in the street as you roll through an intersection or past a driveway, this is safer for you, the cyclist. This is also safer for pedestrians who don’t expect a cyclist approaching.
3. Watch right turns – When cars take a right-hand turn, rarely do they look over their right shoulder for cyclists. Watch for drivers making a right-hand turn and remove yourself from their blind spot by moving towards their left—especially if you’re planning on going straight through the intersection.
4. Bike lanes are your best friend – If your city has bike lanes or paths, take advantage of them! They’re not only safer for cyclists than sharing the road with cars, but they’re also more efficient. If the lane shares a road with other vehicles, keep an eye out for parked cars or, as previously mentioned, cars turning right (or cars merging onto the road).
5. Stick to the rules – Just because you’re riding a bike doesn’t mean you can ignore stop signs or red lights. Sure, it’s illegal, but there’s more to it: adhering to traffic rules and patterns makes you more predictable, which makes riding with cars safer.
6. Consistency is key – Maintaining consistency when sharing the road with vehicular traffic is another way to avoid problems. This means you should ride in a straight line at a constant speed whenever possible, rather than weaving through stopped traffic or cutting through portions of the road.
7. Watch out for car doors – We’ve all known someone who was riding on the shoulder of the road when a parked car door unexpectedly opens, causing the rider to collide with the door. This can result in serious injury depending on your speed. Allow at least a few feet between parked cars and slow down to check for drivers in vehicles who might decide to open their doors.
8. Turn left with caution – You should already be aware of the importance of adhering to the rules of the road, and left turns are no exception. This can be done in one of two ways: hopping off your bike and waiting on the sidewalk to cross the street on crosswalks (walking your bike), or merging into the left turn lane and turning like a car. For each situation, choose the option that feels the safest and most comfortable to you. If you decide to stay with the cars, don’t forget to use your hand signals when merging and turning.
9. Mind your surroundings – When sharing the road with vehicular traffic, only you will know what feels right and what doesn’t. If something isn’t right or you’re uncomfortable on a particular road, don’t be afraid to pull over, stop riding, and call for help or wait for traffic to clear. Keeping the preceding eight points in mind will go a long way toward ensuring your safety, but ultimately it falls on your shoulders to be extremely aware of your surroundings (leave headphones, your phone, and music in your backpack or jersey pocket).
Animosity between vehicles and bikers stems from misinterpretations of one another’s demands and conduct. Remember, there is no such thing as US and THEM because we are all part of the same road community. Every road user should be treated as if they were a member of your family.
(Source: The Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents)