Driving around cyclists: How to stay safe

Driving around cyclists

Navigating the roads as a driver often involves sharing the space with cyclists. While there might be moments of uncertainty for new drivers and occasional frustrations for the seasoned ones, it’s crucial to remember that cyclists can be at greater risk on the road.

Ensuring the safety of both drivers and cyclists is a shared responsibility. In this guide, we’ll offer practical advice on how drivers can coexist harmoniously with cyclists and ensure everyone’s safety.

Why is it so important to pay attention to cyclists?

In recent years, the emphasis on environmentally friendly travel options has intensified, leading to a notable shift in transportation choices.

Many individuals are turning to greener vehicles, but a significant number are gravitating towards the cleanest mode of transport: bicycles. Cycling not only reduces your carbon footprint but also promotes physical health and well-being.

Pay attention to cyclists on the road

However, despite the increasing number of cyclists, roads can be perilous for those navigating on two wheels. According to statistics from the DVSA, in the year ending June 2018, a staggering 17,520 cyclists faced casualties, with 3,780 of these incidents resulting in serious injuries or fatalities.

Even though these numbers show a decreasing trend, they still highlight the urgent need for increased safety measures and awareness.

For motorists, this underlines the significance of being vigilant and cautious around cyclists. By adopting a more attentive and considerate driving style, drivers can play a crucial role in reducing these numbers further and ensuring a safer environment for all road users.

Tips to stay safe when driving around cyclists

1. Provide Ample Space

While bicycles occupy less space than cars, cyclists face unique challenges such as potholes, parked cars, and gusty winds that can divert their course.

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Allow ample room for cyclists on the road

Tailgating a cyclist can be dangerous because they lack the protective shell of a car. Therefore, when driving beside a cyclist, maintain a distance of about 1.5 metres or 5 feet.

Note that the Highway Code often advises cyclists to position themselves in the centre of the lane for safety reasons.

2. Exercise Caution at Junctions

Ensure you look out for cyclists, especially at junctions where they might be less visible. When emerging from a junction, advance slowly to get a comprehensive view and be particularly watchful for cyclists from both directions.

Cyclists less visible at junctions

Bear in mind that cyclists might not always notice vehicles trailing them, so be patient and avoid sudden manoeuvres.

3. Be Mindful When Turning

Always check for cyclists when changing lanes or making turns. Before turning across traffic lanes, ensure no cyclist is in your blind spot or attempting to overtake.

turning-left-side-to-left-side
© Crown copyright (Open Government Licence)

A cyclist’s presence might be obscured during turns, so consistent and thorough observations are crucial.

4. Overtake Safely

Only overtake cyclists when it’s safe and you can maintain a proper distance. Avoid overtaking near junctions; instead, wait until you’re on a clear stretch of the road. Always prioritise the cyclist’s safety.

Overtake cyclists safely

5. Maintain Constant Vigilance

Regularly checking mirrors and blind spots is essential. This frequent observation helps you spot cyclists who might weave through traffic or approach from behind unexpectedly. Especially when reversing, ensure your surroundings are clear.

6. Adjust Driving According to Conditions

Whether it’s due to weather or road conditions, always adapt your driving style. For instance, in rainy or snowy conditions, allow more space for cyclists. Also, remain alert in residential areas where cyclists are more prevalent.

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Check weather conditions cyclist

7. Respect Road Markings

Always stop at the line at junctions to allow cyclists a safe space. Avoid driving in cycle lanes with solid white lines during their operational times. When using lanes with broken lines, ensure it’s safe and doesn’t obstruct cyclists.

8. Watch Your Speed

Speed limits indicate the maximum allowable speed, not necessarily the safest. When in proximity to cyclists, consider reducing your speed to ensure their safety.

9. Understand and Use Clear Signals

Watch for any hand signals or gestures cyclists make to anticipate their next move. Simultaneously, ensure you signal in advance so cyclists can adjust their riding accordingly.

10. Open Your Door Carefully

Before opening your car door, especially on traffic side, always check for approaching cyclists. A useful practice is the Dutch Reach method: use the hand furthest from the door to open it, naturally turning your body and allowing you to check the blind spot behind.

In Conclusion

Staying informed and practicing these safety tips can lead to harmonious road sharing. For a comprehensive understanding, revisiting the Highway Code is always a good idea, irrespective of your driving experience. Safe driving benefits everyone on the road!

Frequently asked questions

No. If you believe a cyclist hasn’t noticed you, it’s best to wait until it’s safe to pass. Avoid honking your horn as it might startle the cyclist, potentially leading to an accident or causing them to lose control. Always prioritize safety over haste.

Yes. Cyclists might ride in the centre of a lane, especially if they believe the lane is too narrow for a vehicle to pass safely.

By positioning themselves this way, they aim to prevent unsafe overtaking. If you encounter a cyclist in this position, it’s a good indication to proceed with caution.

Yes. While cycling lanes are designed to enhance the safety of cyclists, their use is not mandatory. Cyclists have the discretion to decide whether to use them or ride on the road.

Some experienced cyclists might opt for the road over a cycling lane based on their judgment or preference.