With warmer weather and longer days more people are getting out on their bikes. Cyclists are everywhere – which sometimes means that hot tempers are too. Cyclists and motorists certainly have a different view, but we share the same roads. Keeping a “balanced score card” is a good way to see through each other’s eyes and learn to share the road comfortably.
When you’re driving keep an active eye out for cyclists. Look behind before you open your door. Keep a watch at intersections and roundabouts. A cyclist might be travelling much faster than you think.
One of the most common causes of friction between drivers and cyclists is when they ride two abreast. Many a cycling pair or group has been abused for taking up lane space. Trouble is, what they’re doing is quite legal – as long as they don’t ride more than 1.5 metres apart. There is some logic to doing this, especially on narrow roads.
Vehicles are supposed to leave at least one meter’s clearance when overtaking a cyclist. Many cyclists find that riding single file tempts motorists to pass while staying inside the lane, which doesn’t leave much room. Riding two abreast means motorists must employ the same technique they would to pass a car; that is overtake when safe by going over into the opposite lane. That leaves a safer margin.
But the onus for sharing the road equitably rests just as much on cyclists as motorists. Remember that cars and trucks do have blind spots. Always consider whether you’ve been seen. Cyclists can give motorists an unwarranted scare by just popping suddenly into view.
Yes, you are allowed to pass vehicles on the left. But not when they are indicating and turning left. Don’t be tempted to think you have room to squeeze past. That car turning left has right of way. Your squeezing past can quite intimidating. Be patient for the few seconds it takes the car to turn.
Yes, cyclists are considered vehicles by law. That means you must observe the law the same way the motorists must. If you want to earn respect you must give it.
When you’re driving, put your cyclist’s hat on. When you’re cycling keep your driver’s hat on. The more we learn to think like each other, the better we’ll be able to share the road and keep a balanced score card.
See you on the road soon, God willing. Eddie Barkla
First published in the Bendigo Weekly Friday 6 October 2006. Image courtesty www.pedbikeimages.org/Michael King