Can you share the road with cyclists?
Do you remember when you first learned to ride a bike? I was so thrilled that I could get rid of my training wheels and ride my bike like my friends could. It gave me that early feeling of mobility. As a driving instructor, it made perfect sense for me to have taught each of my kids how to ride their bikes and they’ve felt the same way I did when I was their age. Once you’ve learned how to ride a bike, you have to learn how to blend into traffic in a safe manner. Drivers also need to blend smoothly with cyclists. How well do you drive with cyclists near you?
The first thing to remember as a driver is to keep your eyes moving from side to side to help spot cyclists that may enter your traffic flow. That, combined with looking well ahead, will help you see the cyclists sooner to give you time to adjust. As drivers, we must remember that most cyclists will be riding their bicycles at a speed much slower than our speed. We have to recognize this fact early and adjust speed early enough so we can avoid sharing the same lane as cyclists.
Look for cyclists that may be coming out of driveways, from between parked vehicles or scooting across crosswalks when they shouldn’t. Being prepared for them is a very proactive way to drive; but we must also know what to do when we come across a cyclist.
A cyclist may move around a sewer grate at any time, so as a driver, we must give a cyclist as much room as possible when passing them. When doing a lane change around a cyclist, change lanes early enough that the drivers behind have time to see the cyclist so they can change lanes early as well. A sudden lane change may jeopardize the safety of a cyclist.
If you have to move around a cyclist on a two-lane road, move across the centre line when it’s safe to do so. Make sure there is no oncoming traffic and that your visibility is good. After you’ve passed the cyclist, drift back into your lane when the cyclist is visible in your mirrors. This ensures they are far enough behind you to remain safe. Earlier this summer while I was out with my family, I came across an oncoming driver who had drifted across the centre line to avoid a cyclist. The only problem was that I was directly in the path of this oncoming van. I had to use the shoulder to avoid the head on collision. This oncoming driver used poor judgement to pass the cyclist, but luckily I saw them in time to respond. Let’s hope that more drivers use better judgement when passing cyclists.
There have been times in the past when I had the chance to ride my bike to my office when I knew I was in my office all day. The 45 minute bike ride was quite a challenge. Drivers coming from behind me didn’t give me much room. It was a good thing I had a mirror on my bike that allowed me to see what was approaching me from behind. I remember a few times that I had to escape up a driveway ramp or parking lot ramp to avoid a close call with a driver.
Experiencing that has allowed me to improve my driving instruction to allow cyclists more space. I have a better understanding of what cyclists need in order to ride their bikes safely along public roads. Maybe that’s what all drivers need; to ride their bikes in traffic from time to time. I think it would help appreciate how difficult it can be at times.
Making right turns can also be a problem for both drivers and cyclists. The next time you’re moving slowing before turning or are stopped in traffic before turning and are approaching the intersection; check your blind spot to the right before starting the turn. The cyclist may have snuck between your vehicle and the curb. Anticipating that the cyclist may be approaching is always a good thing, so constantly checking your side mirror is a good thing.
Since our communities have added many bicycle lanes, be sure you check your mirrors and blind spots before entering them; especially when driving slowly enough for cyclists to be there. You are allowed to enter the last portion of the cyclist lane before turning. Like any lane change, you’ll need to check for other vehicles. Having good short term memory is important since you’ll have to remember if you’ve just passed a cyclist before entering the bicycle lane.
Cyclist can also have a difficult time when they are driving through residential areas. If you need to park your vehicle on the street, open the door with your right hand. It allows you to glance in your side mirror and blind spot before the door opens. This will help you see if any cyclists are coming up the side of your vehicle.
I hope these tips will make some sense to you as a driver; and also as a cyclist. We need to share the roads with all road users, so let’s do it safely.