Buying time and space on the road

A cyclist approaches a roundabout with a van on his right

Playing dice: cyclists take their life in their hands entering situations like roundabouts. Photo: Eddie Barkla

The world would have us believe that we need everything now. It is the latest the greatest and the best in the world we are told.  It will transform you instantly. It is available to you now don’t delay. We are bombarded with these words from many forms of media. The truth is the only thing that is for now, is our salvation. I remember so vividly a quote of my mother “want will be your master”.  We want to be in the best position, we want to be successful, we want to be rich, we want time to move faster, we lack that virtue of patience and all good things comes to those that wait.

Sadly the manner in which we share the road is taking on a similar tone and neither cyclist nor motorist are devoid of this curse of “wanting”. There is enough space on the road for us to safely share the road in the right timing.  What seems to be creeping in is that we are all buying for the same time to sharing the same space.

As cyclists this is not a position we long to find ourselves being in as we more often than not come off second best. It is not always that we were in the wrong spot at the wrong time, it was someone else wanted the spot more than we realised.  It is often thought and commented on that cyclists ride far too fast which is some cases could quite be true when conditions are not conducive. It is probably that it is not that cyclists are riding faster but there are more cyclists that are capable of riding at a reasonable pace. For example, at 35 km per hour a cyclist covers 10 metres per second, which with a road bike is a cruising speed and not considered fast. Even at 50 km per hour the distance covered is only an additional 4 metres per second.

Cyclist are generally very focused on the road users around them and very alert to changing road conditions and believe it or not are not out there to risk life and limb.  A motorist that is aiming for the split second space in the traffic break is less likely to see a cyclist and miscalculate that the space is already committed.  As most are aware riding is a daily event for me and sharing the road is something I take seriously. But I find more and more it is not that I am not seen (although there are those nervous moments have I been seen or not) but there is not enough time left for the charging motorist that thinks they are time poor to be patient enough to share the space.

Where this most likely to occur these days is where the motorist is approaching from behind at roundabouts or at a T intersection and make a charge to push their way through at risk of putting me the rider into the kerb or in contact with the front left hand panel of the vehicle.  While in most cases riders will take some evasive action of self protection and survival quite often this will have a detrimental effect and a fall can result.

There are times where the cycling fraternity can be impatient and push the envelope of trying to buy space and time in sharing road space, frustrating shared road users but not placing them at a greater risk than what they place themselves. Lycra is not body armour of protection, prudent avoidance is a cyclist’s best and only form of defence.

As cyclists our hearing must be highly attuned and wearing iPods is a huge risk in being able to account of the dangers that lurk behind us. Like a learner driver being taught head checks before any change in direction into another lane of traffic we too would be prudent to adopt a similar approach for safety sake.

Looking forward to seeing you on the road soon God willing


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