Sharing the road with cyclists

Last week was Bike to Work Week. That means chances are good that motorists will be sharing the road with more cyclists this week than they normally do.

Last week was Bike to Work Week. That means chances are good that motorists will be sharing the road with more cyclists this week than they normally do.

With people seeking greener and healthier means of travel, motorists will find themselves sharing the road with more and more cyclists all the time. So it’s vital that both groups find a safe and harmonious way to coexist on the roads.

Firstly, it’s important to accept, and understand, that both cyclists and motorists have the same right to travel on public roads. But with that right also comes responsibilities, for both motorists and cyclists.

Since this column is about driving we will focus more on the responsibilities of motorists. It begins with your responsibility to follow traffic laws, such as obeying traffic signals, driving the speed limit, and avoiding impaired or distracted driving. On top of that, it’s every motorist’s responsibility to drive defensively and watch for vulnerable road users, even if they may not have the right of way.

Keep your eye out for cyclists both in front of and beside you and who might be coming up behind you in the rear view mirror. Knowing that they are there in the first place will greatly reduce your chances of a collision. Always double check your blind spots.

Maybe instead of having your children making a game of looking out for punch buggies, have them look out for cyclists and motorcycles. As adults they will be trained to watch for both.

What may seem as erratic riding to you, may be a cyclist swerving to avoid rocks, potholes, glass and other debris. Or they may be riding out into the road to avoid car doors opening into their path.

When passing cyclists, stay at least a metre from them. Give plenty of room to get around them. To demonstrate this point, try standing on a busy road with your back to traffic, and slowly inch out until the passing cars are less than three feet from you. Feel the draft of larger vehicles pulling you into the road. How comfortable do you feel? Cyclists feel this way on every trip.

Be vigilant at intersections. This is where over 60 per cent of vehicle/bicycle crashes occur. Be especially careful to watch for cyclists turning left. Cyclists may not always come to a complete stop because of the momentum they can lose. Cyclists call it an Idaho stop. It may not seem wise, but it is a reality. It’s not unlike when some motorists coast through a stop sign when no one is coming.

Pay particular attention when turning left or right. It’s easy to miss a cyclists in turns. When you are turning right, be sure to signal well in advance signal and check the mirrors and your blind spot to avoid cutting off a cyclist. When you’re turning left, stop and wait for any cyclists to pass before continuing your turn.

Bike lanes are exactly that — bike lanes. Never cross over them without using extreme caution and never park in them, even for just a minute. They were set up to help keep cyclists safe and off the main part of the road.

Don’t assume cyclists can hear you approaching. Normal life and road noises are a lot louder outside your car and cyclists could be listening to music on their ride.

Motorists are to blame for approximately 90 per cent of all crashes with cyclists. Cyclists don’t have seat belts, air bags, roll cages, or other safety items that motorists have. In a crash the cyclist is the first one there.

Cyclists also have responsibilities when traveling on public roads.

Observing the obvious, like obeying rules of the road, and wearing a helmet and bright colored reflective clothing are very important. You may not see riders in the Tour de France dressed in bright clothes with lights on their bikes, but you don’t see people in pickup trucks texting there either.

Cyclists also need to ride defensively and watch for motorists. Riding aggressively through traffic agitates drivers and makes them nervous, increasing the chances of a crash.

Let motorists know your intentions by always using hand signals. Don’t assume drivers will instinctively know what you’ll do. And don’t assume motorists will always follow traffic signs themselves.

While cyclists may love good tunes while riding, it’s never a good idea in traffic. It drowns out the sound of possible perils. If you absolutely are bent on breaking this rule, for whatever reason, never use earbuds in both ears. Keep your ear towards traffic open and listen to the traffic flow.

For cyclists wanting to learn more about riding in traffic check out bikesense.bc.ca/bikesense-manual. You will find a complete manual outlining cycling and traffic skills.

If both motorists and cyclists are careful and respectful of one another, knowing we all share the same roads, we can easily exist in harmony and no one needs to get hurt.

Catch Driving with Jens on CHON FM Thursdays at 8:15. If you have any questions or comments you can reach out to Jens Nielsen at drivingwithjens@gmail.com, or on Facebook or Twitter: @drivingwithjens.

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