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25 Oct, 2016

Share the Road

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“We have come up with some top tips to help cyclists and vehicle drivers avoid conflict on our roads,” explains Steve Hayward chairman of South Africa’s largest cycling organisation, the Pedal Power Association.

The PPA is committed to promoting the interests of cyclists and cycling as sport, recreation and a means of transport. Our influence and interest spans recreational road and off-road cycling events and initiatives; supporting cycling community projects; lobbying for the interests of cyclists' safety and rights; assisting communities to develop through cycling; and encouraging the youth to cycle. Our safe cycling campaign Stay Wider of the Rider has been hugely successful.

Here are our top tips to help cyclists and drivers avoid conflict on our roads.

Let’s share the road: Courtesy comes free and leaves both parties feeling better. Acknowledge each other on the road and thank courteous behaviour. As a driver you may think the road belongs to you but that is not true. Everyone has the right to public roads and, by law, a bicycle is a vehicle so please treat it like one.

What if you were a cyclist or a driver? Thinking like the other person will help to share the road safely.

Realise cyclists are vulnerable: You’re driving a vehicle hugely heavier and more powerful than theirs. In any impact, cyclists will be the losers.

Drivers and pedestrians have rights too: They have the right to expect cyclists to obey the rules of the road and to be courteous. Cyclists should stop at Stop Signs, obey traffic signals and respect pedestrians. Much like cyclists are vulnerable to vehicles, pedestrians are vulnerable to cyclists. Respect goes both ways!

Cyclists wear bright clothing: Make it easy for drivers to see you – wear bright colours and have reflectors on your bicycle.

Signal your intentions: Cyclists and drivers should clearly and timeously indicate their intentions. This is especially so when turning.

Appreciate that cyclists are helping you: Counter-intuitive to what you may believe, cyclists actually reduce congestion on the roads by not driving cars. They’re cutting the time you spend in traffic jams as they’re taking up so much less space.

Avoid ‘dooring’ cyclists: Dooring means to open your door into the path of a cyclist riding past. Don’t open any doors without checking there aren’t any cyclists coming up behind you. You could easily sweep them clean off their bikes and it won’t be pretty. Think about the width of your door when it’s open; you easily have a 1-1.5m mobile barrier swinging into the road each time you get in or out of the car. It can also be fatal, and happens more often than you’d expect.

Be aware and be patient: 84% of cyclist casualties in recent years were caused by careless inattention mainly on the part of drivers. Whilst cyclists should ride responsibly they are far more vulnerable and a lapse of attention could result in a charge of culpable homicide!!

Pay attention and be on the lookout for cyclists at all times, especially when turning or reversing. Use your mirrors because cyclists may overtake slow-moving traffic on either side. They may sometimes need to change direction suddenly, so just be aware of this and observe any indications they give such as looking over their shoulder. Don’t tempt them into taking risks or endanger them.

Allow plenty of space: When overtaking a cyclist you’re required to give them as much room as you would a car. They may need to swerve to avoid hazards. Always anticipate that there may be a pothole, an oily or wet patch, glass or some other obstruction in the cyclist’s path that you can’t see.
Don’t drive too closely behind a cyclist because you may not be able to stop in time if they come off their bike or do something abruptly. Unless you have an entire clear, empty lane in which to pass, slow down and wait until there is room to pass. Pass them slowly! Remember “Stay wider of the Rider”

Drive slowly in restricted or low visibility conditions: On rural roads or those with limited sight distance or low visibility remember that a cyclist could be around the next corner. It could also be an elderly person, a child, an animal or a tractor turning into a field. Reducing your speed reduces the risk of something happening. You can’t see ahead on hills and in curves, so slow down when you’re not sure what’s on the other side. Make sure you can stop the car in half the distance you can see to be clear. At night the need to do so is even higher.

Cyclists have a right to claim the lane: Cyclists have as much right as you do to take up the entire lane. You may think they’re being utterly selfish by doing so, but in fact they’re preventing having an accident. They really aren’t trying to slow you down it’s just the safest way for them to cycle, particularly if there’s a blind bend, a narrowing of the road, a high risk junction, pinch point or traffic lights ahead. Additionally if there’s a narrowing of the road, they’re stopping you squeezing through far too cosily beside them. Cyclists should never cycle in the gutter because it gives no room for avoiding obstacles and leaves them no room to fall if an accident occurs, meaning they could go straight under your wheels – which isn’t terribly good for either party.

Get on a bike! Not until you experience what it’s like to be a cyclist on a busy road will you truly be able to empathise with them and realise how careless drivers can be at times. Cyclists can also be careless, but it usually ends in them getting hurt, not you!