How to Drive Safely Around Cyclists
Updated 6 September 2022 | Originally Published 21 October 2016
A lot of drivers view cyclists with a certain amount of scorn; seeing the road as a place for cars. Regardless of your opinion, bicycles are in a naturally much more vulnerable position than someone in a car. Be aware of this, and be careful and considerate when driving around bicycles.
According to Statista In 2021, there were some 7,493,000 cyclists on British roads, 2.4 million more than 2016.
1. Pass Cyclists With Caution
Give bikes plenty of room
It’s important to give bikes plenty of room when passing them. This is because cyclists have a lot of hazards to deal with. For example a sudden gust of wind can blow a cyclist off course, and a pot hole requires the cyclist to veer out to avoid it.
The Highway Code specifies that you need to leave at least 1.5 metres (5 feet) when overtaking a cyclist. Giving a cyclist a wide berth means that if a cyclist needs to move, the chances of a collision are lowered.
The Highway Code also advises cyclists to ride in the centre of lanes on quieter roads, in slow-moving traffic, and when approaching junctions to make themselves as visible as possible.
Do not pass if there is not enough room
If there isn’t enough space to pass safely, wait. If the road ahead appears to narrow or bend, or if there is an oncoming vehicle it’s best to hold off.
Reduce your speed
If you’re driving around cyclists, then you almost certainly shouldn’t be driving at the maximum speed limit. Instead, you should reduce your speed. Sharing the road with others means that you need to be respectful of their safety at all times.
2. Watch Out When Turning
It’s important to be vigilant for cyclists when switching lanes, and turning left or right.
Be sure to check your mirrors and blindspots to make sure a cyclist isn’t attempting to overtake you before you turn. If they are, wait for them to pass before you move.
If you’re turning across oncoming or stationary traffic, for example, you should leave a safe gap and check for any cyclists on the inside of any traffic you’re crossing.
3. Watch For Their Signals
If you spot a cyclist in front of you, you should glance at them every now and again just in case they give you a signal that lets you know what they intend to do next.
Cyclists often use arm signals to show their intentions, but sometimes they can’t do this because they need to brake and steer. Certain movements, such as looking over their shoulder, may also indicate that they are turning, changing direction or pulling out. Look out for these signals when driving, and make sure you give them the time and space they need to manoeuvre.
As important as it is to watch out for their signals, it’s just as vital that you provide your own. Don’t delay with your signals—the sooner you check your mirrors and signal, the sooner a cyclist can prepare accordingly. If they know you’re preparing to turn, they might decide it’s too risky to overtake you. Give them plenty of time to react and everyone will be better off for it.
4. Be Careful At Junctions
Cyclist waiting areas are a feature at certain junctions in order to allow cyclists to position themselves ahead of other traffic. It gives them the chance to get ahead once the lights turn green. If you see this area ahead of you, and the lights are ready to turn red, you need to stop at the first white line. Once the light’s green, if there are cyclists in front of you, you need to pause and give them time to move off.
In general, when you’re preparing to emerge from any type of junction, you should slowly creep forward so that you have a good enough view of both sides of the road.
Take special care to look in both directions for any approaching cyclists. If you see one, you might want to wait for them to pass before you move. Even if you’re confident you can emerge before they reach you, they could be moving at a faster speed than you realise.
5. Check Before Opening Your Door
After parking, and before you open your door, look out for cyclists and other vehicles.
Cyclists are much harder to see than cars, and they may be travelling past at speed when you want to get out. So if you’re not careful, you could swing open your door and knock a cyclist off their bike.
It’s worth getting into the habit of opening the driver’s door with your left hand, as this can prompt you to look over your shoulder at your blindspot—the very space in which a potential cyclist, motorist or pedestrian might be.
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