What drivers can do to be more cyclist aware

Driving Cycling Safety

Before we begin, this isnt an anti-driving post, were not lambasting drivers. As much as drivers need to be more cyclist aware, follow road rules and drive safely, vice versa also applies!

Learn to share

As a car driver you may think the road belongs to you, but nobody owns the road. Everyone has a right to pass and re-pass on public highways. By law, a bicycle is a vehicle, so treat it like one.

Appreciate that cyclists are helping you

Counter-intuitive to what you may believe, cyclists actually reduce congestion on the roads by not driving cars. They re reducing the time you spend in traffic jams as theyre taking up so much less space. Cyclists have a phrase for this, often seen on t-shirts and posters: One Less Car.

Avoid dooring cyclists

Its illegal! It can also be fatal, and happens more than youd expect. Dont open any doors without checking there arent any cyclists behind you. You could easily sweep them clean off their bikes and it wont be pretty. Think about the breadth of your door, its easily 1-1.5m wide.

Driving with cyclists

Realise cyclists are vulnerable

Youre driving a vehicle hugely heavier and more powerful than theirs. In any impact, they will be the losers. Perhaps its best we take after most other European countries which operate strict liabilty. These regulations result in the motorists insurance usually being deemed to be responsible in any crash involving a cyclist. In the same way that a cyclist would be at fault in a smash with a pedestrian. With the driver always at fault in any accident, drivers become evidently more cautious around cyclists.

Helmets dont equal guaranteed safety

Of course theyre definitely worth wearing, its just that drivers often think a cyclist with a helmet is 100% safe. Well, theyre not.
A helmet is designed to withstand head-on impacts of no more than 13mph! Some cyclists choose not wear to wear helmets and a UK study showed they are given more caution by drivers. A cyclist with a helmet, however, is by no means invincible.

Exercise some caution and be patient

90% of cyclist casualties in recent years were caused by careless inattention, firstly by drivers, secondly by cyclists (nidirect.gov.uk) Its your responsibility to avoid hitting the cyclist, not the responsibility of the cyclist to avoid getting hit by you.
Pay attention and be on the lookout for cyclists at all times, especially when reversing. Use your mirrors as cyclists may overtake slow-moving traffic on either side. They may sometimes need to change direction suddenly, so just be aware of this and observe any indications they give such as looking over their shoulder. Dont tempt them into taking risks or endanger them.

Allow plenty of space

When overtaking a cyclist youre required to give them as much room as you would a car. They may need to swerve to avoid hazards. Always anticipate that there may be a pothole, oily, wet or icy patch or some other obstruction. Cyclists endanger themselves by cycling in straight lines!
Dont drive too close behind a cyclist as you may not be able to stop in time if they come off their bike or do something abruptly. Unless you have an entire clear, empty lane in which to pass, slow down and wait until there is room to pass. Pass them slowly!
Cars and cyclists

Drive slowly on low-vis roads

On rural roads or those with limited visibility remember that a cyclist could be around the next corner. It could also be an elderly person, a child or an animal. Reducing your speed reduces the risk of something happening.
You cant see ahead of hills and curves, slow down as you dont know whats on the other side. Make sure you can stop the car at all times. At night the need to do so is more exaggerated. You need time for the headlights to shine on the road ahead and recognise that theres something there.

Cyclists have a right to claim the lane

Thats correct. They have as much right as you do to take up the entire lane. You may think theyre being utterly selfish by doing so, but in fact theyre preventing having an accident. They really arent trying to slow you down, its just the safest way for them to cycle particularly if theres a blind bend, a narrowing of the road, a high risk junction, pinch point or traffic lights ahead. Additionally if theres a narrowing of the road, theyre stopping you squeezing through far too cosily beside them.
Cyclists should never cycle in the gutter as it gives no room for avoiding obstacles and leaves them no room to fall if an accident occurs, meaning they could go straight under your wheels. Not nice.

Beware a left turn

Turning left is how most accidents occur. A cyclist may sneak up, perfectly legally, beside you while youre waiting impatiently at a red light. Its not at all illegal for cyclists to filter on the left or right of lanes but it is often difficult to spot them, especially when hidden by your blind spot. Youll hit the cyclist as they carry straight on and youve made a left right into them. Also be vigilant when pulling out of a side street, or car park.

Get on a bike!

Not until you experience what its like to be a cyclist on a busy road will you truly be able to empathise with them and realise how careless drivers can be at times. Cyclists can too be careless, but it usually ends in them getting hurt, not you!


Chris Gidney is a keen cyclist and technician at SRAM.
Alex Margolis is the co-founder of carwow
A big thanks to Carlton Reid for helping edit the post
Pictures from Jaguar, showing Team Sky and the Jaguar XF

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