It is the time of year when those of us, who are fair-weather riders, are giving our bikes a dusting and oiling, along with a safety once-over, before hitting the road. The rising atmospheric temperature and favourable climate is an unofficial invitation to ride.
Motor-vehicle drivers must be more aware of cyclists at this time of year than at any other. There are more of them on the road. It is easy to have a bike rider slip into a driver’s blind spot. Some late model cars and trucks are equipped with blind spot cameras or emergency alert indicators which can warn a driver of the cyclist in hard to see areas. My own recently purchased vehicle, warns me of any obstruction in the close vicinity, regardless of its position around my vehicle.
Motor-vehicle drivers tend to take note of threatening hazards, not only those close to their own vehicle, but also those further ahead and well behind. They wear a seatbelt and have vehicles equipped with airbags and air curtains, for their own protection. These self-centred protection devices can have many drivers subconsciously putting others in a secondary safety position.
Cyclists have no such protection. Drivers must be alert to cyclists in every position around their vehicles. Cyclists should take extra care to keep out of the driver’s blind spots, located over each shoulder, at roughly 45 degrees. More and more cyclists are making themselves easier to see, by wearing highly visible reflective clothing. They can be safer by insuring they are in plain sight of drivers, regardless of their position around a motor vehicle. A simple shoulder check by drivers, before any lateral move, whether a turn, lane change or going to or from the curb, can reduce crash potential with cyclists.
Drivers must account for the injury potential of a cyclist in a collision with a motor vehicle. A minor dent or paint scrape is nothing compared to the hospital stay or worse for a cyclist. Cyclists can do themselves a favour by staying out of the blind spot of drivers. The most considerate cyclists are those who hold a driver’s licence. The most considerate drivers are those who also ride bikes. Non-licensed riders have little consideration for the several tasks every driver must complete on a simple or complex journey. Those drivers who have not ridden a bike are unaware of the reduced lateral escape potential and the difficulty in stopping quickly, let alone the visibility challenges every driver faces.
Separating the motor vehicle and bike traffic is often seen as a solution to prevent crashes. This is done where there has been clear evidence of serious collisions in city locations.
Too many cities try to solve transportation problems where no problems exist. For example, there should be a proof of numerous crashes in certain locations prior to spending millions on traffic calming or separated bike lanes, traffic lights and other expensive seemingly suspect solutions. Why solve a problem that does not exist, and at the same time create another on lateral neighbourhood streets? (Does Richardson Street in Victoria ring a bell?)
Cyclists can help drivers by using proper signals. Divers likewise!
Eye contact is the best way of making sure others in the traffic system have seen and are aware of fellow travellers.
Quick actions are a curse for both cyclists and motor-vehicle drivers. The best and safest manoeuvres are those that are done in a predictable and concerted manner.
Many drivers of large trucks have difficulty seeing bike riders. If motor-vehicle drivers or bike riders cannot see the truck driver from behind in the side view mirrors of the truck, the driver cannot see them.
Steve Wallace is the owner of Wallace Driving School on Vancouver Island. Her is a former V.P. of the Driving Schools Association of the Americas, a registered B.C. teacher and a U of Manitoba graduate.