Drivers and cyclists alike need to remember to share the road

Nobody needs to get hurt out there

May 28 to June 3 was Bike to Work Week. I noticed more bikes on the road during that week. It was great to see people participate.

However, many of the behaviors I noticed prompt me to revisit a past article and remind both cyclists and motorists that both groups need to remember to share the road.

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. It’s vital that both groups find a safe and harmonious way to coexist on the roads.

For motorists this begins with your responsibility to follow traffic laws, drive the speed limit, obey traffic controls and avoid impaired or distracted driving. 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.

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 and more likely to be seriously injured.

Please keep your eye out for cyclists both in front, beside you, and coming up behind you in the rear view mirror. Knowing that they are there in the first place will greatly reduce your chances of crashing with them. Always double check your blind spots. Maybe instead of having your children play a game looking out for punch buggies, have them look out for cyclists and motorcycles, then 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 one metre away 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 slowing inch out until the passing cars are less than a metre from you. Feel the draft of larger vehicles pulling you in to the road. How comfortable do you feel? Cyclists feel this way on every trip.

Over 60 per cent of vehicle/bicycle crashes occur in intersections. Be especially careful to watch for cyclists turning left. Cyclist 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’s a reality. It’s not unlike when some motorists coast through a stop sign when no one is coming.

Pay particular attention when turning as it’s easy to miss a cyclist. When 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.

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

Cyclists also have responsibilities when travelling on public roads.

Observing the obvious like obeying the rules of road, 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.

Ride defensively and watch for motorists. Riding aggressively through traffic and between traffic agitates drivers and makes them nervous, increasing the chances of a crash.

Always let motorists know what your intentions are by using hand signals. Don’t assume motorists will instinctively know what you’ll do. Don’t assume motorists will always follow traffic signs themselves.

While you may like listening to music on your ride it’s never a good idea in traffic. It drowns out the sound of possible dangers. 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 listening to the traffic flow.

Cyclists wanting to learn more about riding in traffic can find a complete manual outlining cycling and traffic skills at bikesense.bc.ca.

If both motorists and cyclists are careful and respectful of one another, knowing we all must 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, Facebook or Twitter: @drivingwithjens.

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