We Teach Driving Like Your Life Depends On It

Drivers, cyclists have to learn to get along

By Steve Wallace, Times Colonist June 3, 2011

Every motorized-vehicle driver on our roads today should be happy when they see a responsible cyclist going to and from work on a bike.

Think about it.

More bicycles on the road means fewer cars are on the road. There is less congestion in the vehicular traffic system. There are more seats available on all modes of public and private transportation.

Cyclists are helping the environment and at the same time staying in better physical and mental shape.

As vehicle drivers, our attitude should be extremely positive when we encounter bicycles on our daily commute. We should be ecstatic and in a complete state of euphoria when we get an opportunity to mix with these non-motorized marvels. Sadly, all is not sweetness and light when cyclists are sharing the road with cars and trucks.

Many vehicle drivers are less than impressed with the sheer numbers of cyclists on our roads. The message is clear: Get used to it. The rising price of gas and the general attention to healthy living will result in the exponential growth of the person-powered two wheel options for years to come.

Here is what we must do as responsible drivers. Look for cyclists. Be aware of lanes that are reserved for bikes. Check the blind spots before making turns and lane changes. Allow more space when following or travelling beside a bike rider.
Because cars are so much bigger and faster than the average cyclist, we have a responsibility as drivers to take greater care and control when encountering cyclists.

When I talk to bike riders, they often tell me that the best and safest cyclists are people who have a driver’s licence. This is because drivers have an appreciation of what a vehicle is capable of doing in most every circumstance. The worst kind of cyclists seems to be non-drivers. They just do not get it. They have unreal expectations of the performance capabilities of the average vehicle and little knowledge of the basic rules of the road.

Some cyclists with whom I have spoken tell me of their perpetual commuter schizophrenia. When they drive to work, usually in inclement weather, they loathe the irresponsible cyclist. When they bike to work, these same people develop a healthy hatred of irresponsible drivers.

I did my own non-empirical survey of cyclists last week and this is the laughable result. The first cyclist that I encountered was wearing a fluorescent pink helmet and was well equipped with mirrors and lights both front and back. She rode like a pro, properly dressed and attentive to all rules of the road. The next cyclist that I encountered was a yahoo travelling on the wrong side of the road facing oncoming traffic, no helmet, lights, mirrors or any kind of safety devices, wearing flip-flops and short pants with a perpetually dazed and confused look on his face. The third person was a racer, decked out with the colourful appropriate attire. He was fast enough to keep up with traffic and was extremely adept at all driving manoeuvres. But he never once stopped properly at a stop sign. Surprisingly, he obeyed the red lights. The last bike rider should probably have been executed at dawn: He rode down the sidewalk, weaving in and out to avoid pedestrians who had their backs to him. No helmet or any other safety devices were evident. Enough said.

It is easy to see why there is a lot of friction between vehicle drivers and cyclists. I actually saw drivers deliberately crowd cyclists out of their duly authorized bike lane, turn in front of them without a shoulder check and bully them with a “size matters” mentality.

Drivers, show some courtesy. Cyclists, follow the rules of the road.
And foremost, let’s all try to get along.

Steve Wallace is a longtime teacher and owner of the Joan Wallace Driving School in Victoria.
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