In support of the bicycle safety campaign “It’s a Two-Way Street”, Luke – an NRMA Senior Policy Advisor, frequent driver and avid cyclist – describes the challenges and risks many drivers and cyclists experience, and provides road sharing tips for the driver or cyclist in us.
As a driver and cyclist, it’s frustrating to hear claims that there is a “war” going on between drivers and cyclists on our roads. This seems to suggest that the roads belong to one group or the other, and always provokes heated debate or unhelpful arguments.
The fact is that both groups are entitled to use the roads, and the reality is that most of us intend to share the road respectfully and safely.
Unfortunately, the statistics show that it is becoming more dangerous to cycle on NSW roads, so it is helpful to understand what you – as a road user of any kind – can do to improve the situation.
For cyclists the message is simple: breaking the road rules puts you and others around you at serious risk. Flouting road rules not only stirs road rage but also reinforces the idea that we, cyclists, are car-hating maniacs with a death wish!
This week, NRMA is supporting a state-wide bicycle safety campaign led by the Amy Gillett Foundation. The campaign slogan “It’s a Two-Way Street” emphasises that everyone is responsible for bicycle safety and highlights the need for mutual respect between road users and respect for the road rules.
To coincide with the bicycle safety campaign, below are the top five tips for cyclists sharing the road with cars:
- Follow the road rules. For your own safety.
- Be seen. Use lights at night (also a road rule) and wear bright clothes if you’re going to be mixing with traffic.
- Be alert and expect the unexpected. You might have right of way, but that’s of little use if a car suddenly pulls into your path. Also, it is daft to wear headphones while riding.
- Be predictable and indicate your intentions. It helps to make eye contact and the odd “thank you” wave never goes astray.
- Wear a helmet. It’s the law.
Like cyclists, drivers also need to follow the road rules and we, drivers, need to be aware of how vulnerable a cyclist can be when things go even slightly wrong out there. Generally, a cyclist can manage most of the risks they can see in front of them in traffic, or beneath them on the road. It’s the risks that approach from behind or from the side – the ones we can’t see – that make us particularly nervous.
To help drivers with this, here are the top five tips for drivers sharing the road with cyclists:
- Allow at least a metre between you and a bike when overtaking. Increase this when on high-speed roads. A metre matters. One metre is the distance marked by the yellow line on a train platform to keep you from the trains. Imagine standing inside that line with a train speeding past you – that’s what it’s like for a cyclist without that buffer.
- Always expect to see cyclists and give way before you turn or pull out of a side street or driveway. A cyclist may be travelling faster than you think, particularly in heavy traffic.
- Be prepared to wait behind a cyclist in the same way you would for a car rather than squeezing past or getting impatient. There is usually a good (and safe) reason for a cyclist to hold the middle of a lane – it’s not just to annoy you.
- Be aware that a bike might need to suddenly swerve to avoid a pothole or debris on the road. Remember also that kids on bikes can be particularly unpredictable, so be cautious.
- Check your mirrors for cyclists before opening your doors. ‘Dooring’ is the greatest fear of many cyclists – it is almost impossible to anticipate and usually results in a serious injury.
You might think cyclists are all a bit crazy, but the growing number of people who are choosing the bike over a car for transport or recreation means that for many there is an appeal in cycling that outweighs the risks.
A bit of courtesy and mutual respect between drivers and cyclists will go a long way to improving the way we share the road.