Oh, drivers and cyclists… can’t we all just get along? Can’t we share the roads in a spirit of peace and harmony?
Actually, the two groups mostly get along fine. Considering the colossal amounts of miles clocked up on UK roads every day, the number of incidents involving motorists and cyclists is remarkably low. Having said that, when something does go wrong, it can be very serious indeed. So in Part One, we pointed out five tips for motorists on dealing with bikes — simple reminders for driving safely, calmly and courteously around our two-wheeled friends.
This time, it’s the cyclists’ turn. Here’s our list of five simple things cyclists can do to make motorists love them more and to help keep everyone safe.
1. DO make yourself very, very visible
As the Stern Gentleman in public safety films used to point out (see Part One for details), cyclists are kind of narrow compared to cars. That makes them harder for motorists to spot.
Realising this, most cyclists do sensible things like wearing reflective or brightly-coloured clothes. But a small percentage want to be cycling ninjas: they come out at dusk, sometimes with no lights on their bikes, dressed in dark clothing.
Please don’t do this. For a motorist with dodgy lights, a smeary screen or less than perfect eyesight, you could be invisible.
Admittedly, a MAMIL (middle-aged man in lycra) might not be the most beautiful sight you’ve ever seen — but at least you can see him. From a survival point of view, that’s infinitely preferable.
2. DO signal your intentions
Some cyclists, especially super-confident ones, dispense with their hand signals. Presumably they figure that other road users will psychically sense they are going. This habit is annoying enough when motorists do it, but for cyclists, it’s much more dangerous.
Cyclists, if there’s any ambiguity about what you’re doing next, please use clear hand signals to inform other road-users. We don’t mean miming, “I’m heading for Wolverhampton” (which is tough to achieve on a bike), but that you’re about to move into another lane, or turn right. Things like that.
Yes, sometimes this is really obvious without a signal. But sometimes, it isn’t, and in those cases the onus is on the cyclist to provide one.
3. DON’T weave in and out of traffic
Commonly seen in large cities, some cyclists manoeuvre through traffic like a two-wheeled Luke Skywalker attacking the Death Star.
This has to be one of the biggest bugbears for motorists. In slow-moving traffic, it’s really alarming to have a bike appear out of nowhere, overtake you, cut in front, then undertake the car in front.
Not only does it create ill-will, but it’s an incredibly risky strategy. Although seasoned city drivers are used to bikes zipping past them on either side, not every motorist on a city road is seasoned. Conditioned to look out for certain types of overtaking — by car-sized objects on their right — they may not spot you until it’s too late to avoid a collision.
4. DO focus on the road, not your Instagram account
It’s just bonkers, but we’re seeing it more and more often: cyclists speeding along whilst checking their mobile phones — or even texting.
There’s no specific law against using your phone on a bike, though you could be prosecuted for careless cycling. Perhaps the UK will eventually follow the Netherlands, who have just introduced an £85 fine for anyone using a handheld mobile device when riding a bike.
But law or no law, is there any need to explain why checking your mobile when cycling is a terrible idea? If phones are a dangerous distraction for drivers, then the same goes for cyclists.
5. DO let other road-users know you’re there
We’ve already covered cyclists’ invisibility to motorists, but let’s just sneak in a plea for pedestrians too.
About 500 pedestrians get hit by cyclists each year, with a quarter of those being seriously hurt. This is a small percentage of the number of pedestrians hit by cars — though that’s not much consolation if it’s you that gets hit.
The most obvious scenario is where an unwary pedestrian is crossing the road. Again, there’s the issue of cyclists being narrower and harder to spot than cars. And when we’re on two feet, it’s as though we’re conditioned only to look out for things with motors.
So cyclists really need to check that pedestrians are aware of their presence. As a recent court case showed, this isn’t just the pedestrian’s responsibility.
Too cool to have a bell on your bike? No, you don’t get a no-bell prize (!) and you’re going to have to shout. We suggest something very British, such as “Excuse me, fellow!”
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