Spring has sprung, and with it has come a flurry of bikes hitting the streets for the first time since the icy pavement drove them into winter hibernation. It also comes with numerous cars less than eager to have to share the road again, and maybe slightly out of practice with road etiquette. So, I come to you, in honour of new and seasoned cyclists alike, who find this unseasonably warm weather to be really greasing their chains, but are fearful of being derailed by aggressive motorists on the roads, to remind everyone of a few basic tips to keep cyclists safe on the road.
- Always signal. Make sure that you signal and brake properly and far enough in advance to respect the needs of cyclists on the road.
- Be patient. Cyclists are slower to start at intersections than cars, this does not make it okay to veer around them, instead just wait a moment. Remember good things come to those who wait.
- Look both ways before you open your doors. Car doors are a cyclist’s enemy. Opening your door into oncoming traffic, without checking for oncoming bikers can cause serious injury or even death to cyclists. I myself have suffered serious scraps and a broken wrist at the hand(le) of a car door.
- Share the road. It seems that most of us have forgotten what we all learned in kindergarten, which is how to share. Sharing the road respectfully, can work to the benefit of both parties. By increasing road safety of bikers,thereby encouraging more people to bike, we can also reduce traffic build-ups for motorists, it’s a win win! Cyclists are entitled to a meter on either side of them, which means they have the right to a full lane of traffic. Most cyclists don't demand this much space, because we like to share. However in return for our generosity it’d be nice if you’d avoid running over us, or pushing us into the curb.
- Don’t tailgate. Nothing makes a cyclist more paranoid than a tailgater. It can be distracting causing the cyclist to lose focus and cause accidents, give a bike as much space as a car.
- Don’t hug the curb. Most cyclists will ride along the side of the road, partially because we are forced there by cars and partially because if done right it increases road efficiency for everyone. However, some cars like to hug the curb and force bikers into the side of the road. This is really dangerous for cyclists, especially if they are traveling at any speed. Moral of the story stay in your lane!
- Check your blind spots before turning right. Too many times I have heard of, or been a victim myself to the phantom right hand turner. These are the people who will be driving along the road and then suddenly without warning turn right. If there is a cyclist coming up the side of the road this can mean a collision, because as far as they can tell you should still be going straight. How can you avoid this? Always signal in advance like you learned for your drivers test.
- Keep your hands and opinions in the vehicle. This is a particular pet peeve of mine, as it defies all logic in my mind. I’m talking about those drivers who feel it is their job to yell things out their windows. Many times friends and I have had people pull up beside us, driving in the wrong lane of traffic, roll down their windows to yell at us, often to tell us that biking at night or such is unsafe. Firstly, giving me safety while doing something that is 100 times more unsafe than what I am doing, doesn’t give you much credibility. Secondly, there is a really good chance that the cyclist you’re yelling at can’t hear a word you’re saying, and even if they can, they probably don’t care. All your doing is distracting the cyclists causing them to take their eyes off the road, which more often than not can result in an accident. Similarly, in what world is it a good idea to try to reach out your car window and grab a cyclist? This may seem ridiculous, as it should but I have had a man reach out his car window to grab my...(well take a guess). In attempting to do so he almost killed me by basically forcing me off the road. Similar incidents have occurred to friends as well. So don’t be that person, respect bikers, because they are people too!
- Avoid honking. One of the worst things you can do to a cyclist is honk at them. It’s horribly distracting, and in my experience has caused, or nearly caused more accidents than otherwise. I also find most drivers use their horn far too freely and like to honk for seemingly no reason other than to voice their discontent with cyclists on the road. I’ve been contemplating adding a car horn to my bike somehow, to return the favour to all the noise polluting cars out there.
- Pay attention. Almost all of the things listed above can be avoided if drivers just payed attention to the road and respected the vehicles around them.
I wrote this because I love to bike, its greener, cleaner and just more fun, but many of my friends are fearful to wander off the set paths (which often won’t get you where you need to go). I have found there to be many resources out there that speak to the risks of cycling, but all from the side of what cyclists can do to stay safe. I think that cyclists need to be very cautious when taking the road, and should always be decked out with lights, bells and helmets, and know the rules of the road.
However, it’s a two way street (both literally and figuratively). Cars are bigger, faster and more dangerous, and it’s time for drivers to step up and share the road and the responsibility with cyclists, or better yet trade in your gas guzzler and bike a mile in our toe clips.