You might have noticed more bikes on the roads in recent times. Cycling is increasingly popular, both as a hobby and a mode of everyday transport. Some people want to live a greener lifestyle or have had enough of sitting in queues of traffic on the daily commute. For others it’s their exercise of choice in a bid to get fit and healthy, or a way to wind down at weekends.
As motorists, it means taking extra care while driving to avoid accidents. Yes, there are rules of the road for cyclists too and it’s important they follow them to keep themselves and their bicycles out of trouble. But in a collision between the average car and a bike, the latter is inevitably going to come off worse.
Always check your mirrors
You should do this anyway to stay aware of what’s going on around you, but many accidents happen when drivers simply haven’t seen the cyclist because they’re hidden behind another vehicle or are in a blind spot. It’s also easy to miss spotting them when you’re pulling out of a junction, navigating a roundabout, or weaving in and out of traffic; your focus is naturally on other, larger vehicles. Take a second look to be on the safe side.
Look before opening your door
Many drivers automatically open their car door after parking up. Or, if they do check for oncoming traffic, they tend to look for larger vehicles and miss the cyclist traveling towards them. Bikes are harder to see – they’re smaller and may be moving at speed. Before opening your door, make sure you and any passengers look in the wing mirror and double-check over your shoulder. (Handy hint – get into the habit of opening the door with the hand furthest away from it; you’ll naturally turn to look behind you.)
Signal your intentions clearly
It might sound obvious, but so many accidents are the result of drivers not warning other road users when they’re about to maneuver. Allow plenty of time to indicate before you turn left or right, as well as when you’re about to pull out of a parking space or switch lanes. It will help other motorists as well as cyclists – everyone can see what you’re about to do and react accordingly.
Give them enough space
When overtaking cyclists, you should give them as much room as you would a car. A good rule of thumb is to allow around 1.5 meters. If there are strong winds or rain, it’s even more important as the conditions could mean the cyclist skids or veers off course. If you’re not confident there’s enough room to pass, slow down and wait until it’s safe.
Remember the cyclist might have to maneuver suddenly, perhaps to avoid a pothole in the road or someone opening their car door. They might also be traveling faster than you think, so never try and squeeze past on a blind bend or approaching the summit of a hill.
Learn to recognize signals
While many cyclists use arm signals to indicate their intentions, it’s not always possible – they might need both hands to steer. Other movements might be used – if a cyclist looks over his shoulder, for example, it could be in preparation for turning or changing direction.
Look carefully for such signals when driving, and always ensure you leave enough time and space for both of you to move and react.
Follow the rules
We all learn the rules of the road to obtain our driving licenses, but it’s fair to say most of us lapse a little afterwards. If the traffic is heavy and your junction is just ahead, it might be tempting to use the cycle lane to squeeze past so you can continue your journey more quickly.
It might not seem important, but you’re increasing the chances of an accident and putting cyclists at risk. Don’t drive or park in marked cycle lanes, and at some stop signals remember those on bikes are allowed to go the front so they can see better. Don’t stop in specially marked areas and, once it’s time move off, give them enough time and space to do so safely.