Share The Road: 6 Simple Tips For Motorists

carWe might be preaching to the choir, but here are six tips for motorists (and that includes cyclists who drive too) that will go a long way to sharing the road and preventing a car-bike accident. Forward the link on to your non-cycling mates.  - By Elly Blue

Flight mode
Need a New Year’s resolution? Make it this: Turn your phone off, turn it onto flight mode, lock it in the trunk—whatever you do, the number one thing you can do to share the road like a champ is DON’T TOUCH THE PHONE. Talking even on a hands-free headset has been found to be an equivalent distraction to drunk driving. And don’t even get me started about texting and whatever else folks get up to behind the wheel. Just glancing down at your phone to dial a number or read an incoming text can be a lethal distraction for you or for someone unlucky enough to be near you. I know you’re busy and that those little screens are absolutely compelling. But enough already! Driving a car is the most dangerous thing you’ll do on any given day. You have no excuse whatsoever to be anything but totally focused on it.

Allow for a tipping point
When you’re cycling along, it’s easy to spot the drivers who aren’t used to sharing the road with you—they either zoom by you way too close or they hang back, unsure when to pass. Neither is necessary. Just follow this rule of thumb: Imagine the person on the bicycle tipping over toward you. Give them at least that much room when you pass, and wait to pass until you can safely give them that much room. That might mean hanging back for a block or so, but it’s better than risking hitting someone. The Western Cape requires passing motorists to give cyclists at least 1 metre, I recommend giving riders at least 1.5m.

Avoid the door prize
Get in the habit of opening your driver’s side car door with your left hand (and your passenger side door with your right). This simple habit change serves the essential function of reminding you to look behind you and avoid opening your door directly in the path of a speedy upcoming bicycle. Some folks ride all the way to the left hugging the line of parked cars because they don’t know to avoid the door zone; yet others weigh the perils of moving cars against the perils of parked ones and take their chances. Regardless, I bet you would prefer not to crash anyone. And you can make this second nature in less than a week.

Assume the best
It’s easy to assume the worst of the intentions, behaviour, and intelligence of your fellow road users. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been taken to task by drivers for doing things that are actually totally legal and necessary for my safety. I’ve also made plenty of assumptions about drivers—that they hate me, they hate cyclists, and they are terrible people. The only thing that helps me deal with the road rage I get is imagining that everyone who is driving “like a jerk” just found out that someone they love is in the hospital. That makes it a lot easier to just let things go when a rider makes a seemingly wrong or dumb move near your car.

No hooting!
When you’re in a car, all sound is muffled, so a toot on the hooter doesn’t really sound like much. But when you’re on a bike, yikes! Regardless of the intention of the hoot—saying hello, letting the two wheeled rider know you’re passing, or communicating your irritability—it can be dangerously alarming. Save it for real emergencies and stick with a friendly wave.

Watch your right hook
Here’s a simple one: Check your blind spot before every left turn. There’s a good chance a cyclist is rolling up the road on your left—or maybe you just passed one without noticing. A quick look over your left shoulder will ensure you won’t cut off any approaching riders.

4 Responses to Share The Road: 6 Simple Tips For Motorists

  1. John January 23, 2014 at 5:19 pm #

    Great ideas on how to get along with motorists but in the “Avoid the door” prize, the wording should have been altered for right-hand drive cars that we have in RSA.

    • Avatar of mybicycling
      mybicycling January 24, 2014 at 9:53 am #

      Hi John
      This is for SA drivers. The idea is to get into the habit of opening your car door with your LEFT hand (ie cross over your body) forcing yourself turn and see what is coming from behind.

  2. MJ January 23, 2014 at 9:12 pm #

    I have always stated that cyclist have caused their own demise on the road.

    As a fellow cyclist I have seen numerously how fellow cyclist break the rules of the road, especially when it comes to single lanes. Riding two, three abreast in a single lane is utterly stupid and looking for trouble. Yes most cyclists out there is going to scream their mouths off due to this fact, but the truth is the truth. We caused it ourselves.

    Yes, you will get a driver of a car that drives recklessly on a particular day and he/she doesn’t look out for a cyclist and knocks them over, that is not the debate. If cyclist wants respect on the road then we need to adhere to the rules of the road. You don’t generally find two cars driving abreast on a single lane, do you?

    We need to look at ourselves first before we start pointing fingers at car drivers. Cyclist that does not obey the rules of the road should be highlighted and shamed, especially when it comes to club rides on Saturday/Sunday mornings. Look at how many clubs here in the East Rand/Jhb/Midrand/PTA region don’t follow the basic rules of the road. Certain clubs don’t stop at a red robot/stop street, check whether there is traffic coming from the other side and go over without thinking twice. A red robot/stop street is what is is, STOP, not a go/yield sign.

    A cyclist was knocked over not so long ago, because he did not check properly and ended up in hospital. He admitted afterwards that he has been doing it so long that is has become second nature to him. He even stated when asked whether he did it with his car, he said no. I asked him afterwards what the difference is and surprisingly he stated no difference, then I ask myself the question: IS IT REALLY WORTH TO WIN A FEW MINUTES, BECAUSE YOU DID NOT WANT TO STOP AT A RED ROBOT/STOP STREET?

    My answer is plainly no…. what is yours

  3. mtb newbie January 27, 2014 at 3:16 pm #

    Watching road cyclists in Jhb and Cpt, one thing has become clear to me – most show no regard for the fact that they are on roads used by cars, ldv’s and trucks.

    What’s up with those HUGE pelotons that hog the roads in early mornings in Jhb? Seriously guys, do you think you’re invincible riding in a bunch of a few dozen? What’s the deal with the swearing, shouting and finger signs at motorists? Why the absolute refusal to let cars past?

    As for Cape Town, why do cyclists insist on using narrow, winding roads at peak times? C’mon guys, if you want to cycle along the Atlantic seaboard, do it early in the morning when the buses and tourists aren’t present.

    In addition, I keep on seeing cyclists ignore red lights, pedestrian crossings and the rules of the road. We cannot expect cars to respect us if we do not respect the most basic rules of the road, can we?

    And could we all keep in a single file? Is that too much to ask?

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