More-and-more people are using bicycles as a way of commuting, exercising or as a form of enjoyment. Therefore it's worth proffering some safety advice to both drivers and cyclists who so often share the county's roads.
Opening car doors
Drivers or passengers often open their car doors without checking for cyclists. This can cause a serious injury if a cyclist runs into the door, and can even be fatal. Drivers and passengers should always check for cyclists, and be mindful of the fact they could be in your blind spot. Also think about the breadth of your door; it’s roughly 1-1.5m wide.
Cyclists should anticipate this occurrence. If you're cycling past a car that has just come to a halt, take caution when overtaking, as someone may be about to get out of the car.
Realise cyclists are vulnerable
If you're a driver involved in an incident with a cyclist, invariably it'll be the cyclist who will sustain the more serious injuries, considering the size of your vehicle in relation to theirs.
Be alert to cyclists, understand that whilst you're surrounded by a metal cage, they rely on basic bike safety precautions like helmets and knee and elbow pads which, although are designed to reduce the damage upon impact and are strongly encouraged, will be little help in a high-speed collision.
In fact, a good quality helmet is designed to withstand head-on impacts of no more than 13mph! However, cyclists who choose not to wear helmets are risking a serious head injury, as at least a helmet cushions any blow to the head caused by a fall or minor impact.
Be cautious and be patient
90% of cyclist casualties in recent years were caused by careless inattention, firstly by drivers, secondly by cyclists (nidirect.gov.uk). It’s your responsibility as a driver to avoid hitting the cyclist, not the responsibility of the cyclist to avoid getting hit by you.
Pay attention and be on the lookout for cyclists at all times, especially when reversing. Use your mirrors as cyclists may overtake slow-moving traffic on either side. They may sometimes need to change direction suddenly, so 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 a driver is required to give them as much room as you would a car, where possible. Cyclists may need to swerve to avoid hazards. Drivers should always anticipate that there may be a pothole, oily, wet or icy patch or some other obstruction.
Don’t drive too close behind a cyclist as you may not be able to stop in time if they come off their bike or pull up abruptly. Unless you have an entire clear, empty lane in which to pass, slow down and wait until there is room to pass, and do so slowly.
Cyclists have a right to claim the lane
It may come as a surprise to most drivers but cyclists have as much right as drivers to take up the entire lane. You will often see cyclists riding side-by-side, and you, as a driver, may think they’re being selfish by doing so. But the fact is the cyclist is actually reducing the risk of having an accident; it’s 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.
Cyclists should never cycle in the gutter as it gives no room for avoiding obstacles and leaves no room to fall if an accident occurs, increasing the risk of falling into the road and potentially under the wheels of a vehicle.
Beware a left turn
Turning left is how most accidents occur. A cyclist may appear - perfectly legally - beside you while you’re waiting impatiently at a red light. It’s not at all illegal for cyclists to filter on the left or right of lanes but it is often difficult to spot them, especially when hidden by your blind spot. As you make a left, and as the cyclist intends to carry straight on, a collision may occur. Also be vigilant when pulling out of a side street, or car park.
Children on bikes
As a driver, beware of young children on bikes. Although most will ride on the pavement, and many will be under the supervision of an adult, some may be unstable on and unfamiliar with their bike and will not have accounted for any hazards that riding on the pavement may entail. This makes them more liable to swerve into the road without giving thought to the dangers that exist there. If you're passing a child, slow down, and watch them carefully as you pass them, whether they be riding on the pavement or the road.
Groups of teenagers on bikes are becoming an increasing sight. Many may flaunt the basic road safety measures simply as a way of looking cool, nonchalant or carefree in front of their peers. They seldom wear helmets, and more often than not their bikes will not be equipped with lights in the dark. They may also ride erratically, either on or off the pavement. This makes them a serious worry for drivers, as their behaviour is often unpredictable. Be extra vigilant when driving near groups of cyclists of this nature.