Things Car Drivers Wish Cyclists Knew
I drive, and ride more than I drive. I know what can go wrong.
Here’s a list of what drivers wish cyclists knew, plus a few comments from pedestrians
I can’t see you
I’ve been hit by a car twice. Both times, I was simply not seen in the traffic. One vehicle (more below) stopped at an intersection, and looked, and missed seeing me. We need to be as visible as possible.
I’m not too far off 70, which means my visual acuity is declining. When you wear black, especially at night or on dull days, it takes me a whole lot longer to see you. I write that as someone who is very attuned to keeping an eye out for bikes. I’m not sure what the thing is about black. Maybe people think it makes them look tough. I get that black knicks don’t show grease, but black jerseys and jackets magnify our risk of being hit. Wear something bright.
And use lights, even in day time. A flashing light means 19% less chance of being hiti. On country roads, a flashing headlight can be seen for kilometres, so much so that I am looking for a small headlight I can mount rear facing along side my tail-light for daytime use.
I still can’t see you
The first bloke who hit me had very good reason to be alert to pushbikes. It’s part of the reason he stopped and looked so carefully before proceeding to run over me. The best we could come up with is that in the dusk, my headlight simply got lost in all the other lights of the traffic, being smaller and much less bright. People talk about using "be seen" lights and not bothering with the expense of something that actually lights their way. They may be legal, but the are really "not be seen lights" if there is other traffic around.
If I'm driving, I want you to have a really bright flashing tail-light and head-lights. I know headlights sometimes slowly shift up to be a bit high, but I can deal with that, and I'd rather be squinting than hitting you. And in busy traffic, a headlight that only blinks every 2-3 seconds doesn't cut it. Shove a car between you and me and you can be invisible for a hundred metres.
I still can’t see you
This is a problem I've noticed on roads where there is little or no street lighting. At night we are visible because the street lights show us up, a bit, and because of our tail-light. If I am a car or two back from you, your tail-light can be invisible. There was a section of Main North Road that had no street lighting some years ago, and I frequently came up behind riders who were invisible because their tail-light was hidden by the car in front of me. It means the time a driver has to react to us is much less, especially since such roads are often set at 70kmh or higher.
If I am anywhere other than back streets at night, I also turn on a helmet mounted tail-light to compensate for this problem. Pro tip: get someone to make sure it can be seen if you are in the drops, or if you ride with a backpack. Especially with a backpack, a helmet light can be essentially invisible if we are in the drops.
You pulled out onto the road without looking
I am simply stunned at the number of people who pull off the footpath without looking. We often see this on our morning commute at a T-junction where cyclists use some pedestrian lights and then re-join the road 30 or 40 metres past the lights. I know you are listening for the traffic, but I've had to slam to a stop because cyclists have not heard my very quiet Hybrid running all electric.
That was a snazzy move, but if you’d fallen off, I’d have run over you…
I'm thinking of all those right turns across traffic, and neatly executed pauses on an inside lane where a cyclist crosses a busy arterial road. The problem of timing things down to the last half second is that it assumes drivers like me are a) logical and b) well disposed to clever cyclists. If some clown changes lanes for no apparent reason, or speeds up to teach us a lesson (not realising the consequences) then there is no time, no "slop," to allow us to get out of the way. Always having a Plan B when crossing traffic means including time to do something else if needbe.
You just rode across a major intersection looking at your feet!!!
The most dangerous place in traffic, it seems to me, is where the lights change. We are at our slowest, which also means we are at our most unstable. Cars try to slip past us. There is always the danger that some fool is coming through on the red light and about to hit us, or that some clown will try to pull off a left turn around us. But time after time, I see blokes wobbling off, way over in the left lane, looking down at their pedals and trying to clip in.
Sit in the middle of the lane if you can't clip in 90% of the time without looking. Look left and right before you look down. And seriously, practise clipping in, it's not that hard. Most times we should be able to do it without looking.
You passed me on the inside, at the lights, while I was moving
We can pull right up to the lights if the traffic is stationery. It's the law. It's not legal if the lane has begun to move and people are indicating left. But it is a good way to die.
Headphones and GPS
Can you hear me? Are you looking? And Pedestrians, you do the same...and then get cranky because you didn't hear my constant bell ringing. Cyclists, you do ring your bell, don't you?
That’s not an eBike, that’s an unregistered vehicle.
I'm talking to the blokes doing 40Kmh round blind corners in the Linear Park. The fine for driving an unregistered vehicle in South Australia is up to $7500.00 That's what you're driving if you've got more than 200 watts or if you've hacked the 25kph cut out speed. A cyclist riding such a bike in NSW killed a pedestrian received a suspended jail sentenceii. I think they were lucky not to have had real jail time, and for longer.
You have the right to use South Road in the rush hour, but really!!?
I'm all for cyclists' rights. But why use South Road and all those other high intensity traffic routes when there are safer alternatives? One of my workplaces was two buildings away from South Road. I found a far less trafficked route by going a few hundred metres in the opposite direction and then travelling parallel to South Road. Further? Yes. Longer? Not much. Quieter, safer, happier? All of these. Unley Road is the same. We can ride down the Frome Road bike path, through the parklands and then on backstreets all the way to the Blackwood roundabout, if we wish. Granted, it can take time to get across a couple of busy roads, but even then, why would anyone without a death wish commute on Unley Road!?
You rode through a stop sign red light and you didn’t see me coming!
Motorists constantly drive through red lights, but they have some protection from the vehicle around them. I'm not interested in the legality. What I know is that red lights mean the people who are seeing the green lights stop looking out for us. Jumping a red light means that if we do miss seeing a car, there's a good chance it won't see us coming. It's tuned us out. With the best will in the world, I do occasionally miss seeing a car, so I'm not going to make it more dangerous by missing seeing one where it won't be looking for me.
Do you have to pass me at 40kmh, six inches away, without any warning?
What's with the boy racers who, if they ring their bell, do it with a half second to spare before they pass a pedestrian, or another bike?
Got a question or comment? Click on the email link at the bottom of the page.
Andrew Prior (March 2023)