Drivers and cyclists — two very different tribes sharing a long, narrow territory. In this two-part post, we’ll post our tips for how they can get along.
Let’s be clear about one thing: most of the time, motorists and cyclists get along just fine. The overwhelming majority of drivers are careful and respectful around cyclists, and vice versa. And why wouldn’t they be? After all, 85% of cyclists hold a driving licence, and 31% of drivers cycle.
Of course, this excess of peace and harmony is hugely under-reported, probably because Driver Behaves Reasonably Toward Cyclist is kind of a boring headline (or YouTube clip).
However, having said all that, it’s undeniable that there are incidents between motorists and cyclists — ranging from verbal aggression through to life-changing collisions.
Reducing these shouldn’t be difficult. All it needs is for both sides to keep some basic points in mind. And that’s why we’ve produced ten simple reminders to help motorists and cyclists to coexist peacefully and safely. In this post, we’ll cover motorists; Part Two will deal with cyclists.
Five simple ways motorists can be nicer to cyclists
1. DON’T tailgate.
If you’re waiting to overtake a cyclist, it can be very tempting to sit 0.00001 cm behind their rear mudguard. After all, your overtaking opportunities may be limited, so you need to be poised and ready to go. But being tailgated on a bike feels exactly like it does in a car. For the person in front, it’s immensely annoying. On a bike, it can also be very intimidating. And of course, you have no margin for error if the cyclist needs to unexpectedly brake or swerve.
So, our first reminder is just to back off and give the cyclist a bit of room. They’ll love you for it.
And speaking of plenty of room…
2. When overtaking, DO give cyclists plenty of room.
A constant bugbear for cyclists is that some motorists pass them far too closely. The easiest way to understand what this feels like is to get on a bike, cycle up a busy road, and wait. Sooner or later, someone will pass too close for comfort. It’s then you discover how unpleasant it is. Apart from feeling crowded off the road, there’s the exhaust fumes, the noise and the wind from the vehicle that’s passing. The latter can can vary from unnerving to potentially catastrophic, depending on the size of the vehicle and how fast it’s going.
The general guideline for passing cyclists is to allow them the width of a small car, even if you’re only going 20 mph faster. Obviously, the faster you overtake, the more room you should leave. Be especially mindful in poor weather, as passing vehicles can set up unpredictable cross-winds.
3. DON’T get impatient when cyclists ride two abreast.
There you are, zooming along, when your happy progress is interrupted by two cyclists… riding side by side! What are they playing at? Are they mad, or just malicious? Shouldn’t you be furious at their selfish behaviour and at least beep your horn in protest?
Well, actually, no.
For a start, in many situations, cyclists have a perfect right to cycle side by side . The Highway Code says this:
You should never ride more than two abreast, and ride in single file on narrow or busy roads and when riding round bends.
Other than that, it’s perfectly legal to be cycling side by side. And there’s a good reason for doing it, too. Riding two abreast can prevent cars from steaming up behind them or doing dodgy overtaking manouevres. Most cyclists will go into single file once they know you’re behind them, so you won’t be held up for two long.
4. DO “Think Once, Think Twice, Think BIKE!”
Back in the 80s, there were a whole series of government ads reminding us to Think Once, Think Twice, Think BIKE! One of the best showed a stern-looking gentleman explaining that bikes were “a third the width of a normal car” and consequently they were “difficult to see, but dead easy to hurt.” The ad then showed a car pulling out of a junction and a bike ploughing horrifically into his side — which is why we haven’t embedded the YouTube clip.
Admittedly, the ad was referring to motorbikes rather than pedal bikes, but the same advice applies today. Cyclists really are difficult to spot, but dead easy to hurt. So whether you’re opening a car door or pulling out from a junction, an extra check for cyclists could avoid a really nasty accident.
Whatever happened to terrifying government safety films anyway?
5. DO just try to relax
Around 53.9% of incidents involving cyclists result from motorist impatience. OK, we just made that number up. But we bet it’s quite a lot. Whether it’s cutting in front of cyclists, overtaking too close, tailgating or other dozy behaviours, many problems ultimately boil down to motorists wanting to get from A to B as quickly as possible.
Without being preachy about it, does it really matter if a cyclist slows you up by two minutes? Why not give your blood pressure (and cyclists) a break? Just put a great driving tune on, relax and be at peace with sharing the road.
Next time, we’ll be focusing on reminders for cyclists. Stay tuned!
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