Perspective of A Motorist


I have written frequently about the frustrations, joys and fears of a cyclist. Dealing with White Van DriversDealing with road rage e.t.c. So I thought it would be interesting to write from a perspective of a motorist.

Wherever, possible I try to cycle. For getting around Oxford, cycling is quicker, cheaper and more convenient. But, I do own a car and recently have been driving to certain events. I made a note of observing cyclists’ behaviour and how it affected me as a motorist. These were some observations from the perspective of a motorist.

Sorry I didn’t see You Mate

As cyclists we are all familiar with the dreaded phrase ‘sorry I didn’t see you mate.’ This is far too often used as an excuse for careless / thoughtless driving. But, as a motorist you do realise how often cyclists can be genuinely difficult to see.


When you are driving in the dark, it can be very difficult to pick out cyclists wearing black clothes and no lights.

Also I notice that many cyclists use the feeblest possible lights. A small, rear light is almost indistinguishable when your are used to seeing car headlights. Sometimes, cyclists will have their rear light obscured by long clothes e.t.c.

As a motorist you appreciate when a cyclist is wearing reflective clothing because this is much easier to see than a flimsy backlight, especially from the side view.

Cyclists are not Really a Nuisance.

Of course, I’m biased. but, overall cyclists in the road are not really a problem at all. I like to leave cyclists alot of room when overtaking (do unto others as you would have done to yourself…) In practical terms this means sometimes slowing down from 30 to 15mph for a few seconds before overtaking at an appropriate time. But, cyclists do not cause your overall journey time to be any longer. It’s not like getting stuck behind buses at bus stops or stuck in an interminable traffic jams. The impatience to overtake cyclists is really misplaced, the impact on overall journey time is insignificant.

Critical Mass.

There is a big difference to driving in Oxford, where cyclists are numerous and a place like Bradford where cyclists are a rarity. The prominence of cyclists in Oxford means you are always looking out and looking in your rear mirror. But, when cyclists are a rarity, it is easier to get out of the habit and be surprised when one appears. This backs up reports which suggest more cyclists on the roads leads to safer roads. In a way the presence of cyclists encourages relatively more careful driving.

Cycle Lanes at Lights


I have mixed feelings about these cycle lanes which enable cyclists to go to the front of the queue. They can be useful when cycling. But, on when you are in the middle of a lane and you have cyclists or your inside and  on your outside, it leaves little room for manoeuvre.

Jumping Lights.

Ironically, when cyclists are squeezed in between lanes of traffic, it is almost a relief when they anticipate traffic light changes and jump the lights by a few seconds. I’d rather drive off with cyclists ahead than cyclists to the left and right of the car. On some occasions, a person on a bike will ride through a 4 lane junction completely oblivious to lights and force the motorists to stop in their tracks. Even an isolated incident can make you pretty annoyed at the arrogant road use. As a cyclist, myself, I don’t start generalising; I know the cyclist who makes traffic stop is probably the same person who will drive irresponsibly too. But, the reality is people do make generalisations.


A large portion of road users don’t signal. This proportion is higher amongst cyclists. It is frustrating when cyclists don’t look over shoulder and signal. Though, as a motorist I can usually anticipate at junctions that a cyclist may be wanting to turn left or right.


Because I’m so used to cycling, I don’t like getting stuck in a traffic jam – I start thinking if only I had the flexibility of a bike to sneak down the inside.


It works both ways. When its chucking down with rain in the cold winter months. I can’t help sometimes feeling glad I’m not on the bike….

Buses are a Real Pain.

On Oxford’s narrow roads, it is buses which create the most congestion. Stopping at every bus stop causes traffic on narrow roads to come to a standstill.


It was an interesting experience – trying to empathise with the view of a motorist to get a different perspective on cycling. Yet, my driving experience is completely dominated by my experience cycling on roads. As a cyclist, I instinctively have patience when overtaking cyclists and am more tolerant of foibles like failure to signal (sometimes you are just trying to concentrate on staying upright e.t.c). Generally, cyclists don’t create a difficult experience for motorists, in fact the presence of cyclists can encourage more alert driving. But, there are times when you get annoyed with some cyclists. In particular, cycling at night in dark clothes / no lights is a real problem which cyclists and the police should address.

Like anything, you see responsible cycling and irresponsible cycling. But, unfortunately, it is the minority cyclists completely ignoring traffic signals which stick in the memory.

Also, I would be quite happy for special constables to look for serious road infringements – not focusing on cyclists. But, just looking for dangerous behaviour from any road user. I think even the threat of regulation would make both cyclists and motorists behave better.

7 Responses to Perspective of A Motorist

  1. david November 12, 2010 at 6:31 am #

    yes clive, I always wait at lights and was at these lights:,+Kent+CT3+2BB,+United+Kingdom&ll=51.378809,1.383285&spn=0,0.005472&t=h&z=18&layer=c&cbll=51.378965,1.383129&panoid=z2Bj6WRxKkr9VGTQhBR8LA&cbp=12,105.26,,0,-0.12

    and waiting in the right hand lane to get to my work at the hospital (my lane on red) I always wait on my bicycle in the queue of traffic slap bang in the middle of the lane.

    some idiot on a bicycle filtered past me and totally jumped the lights in my lane with the intention (as it turned out of going straight on not turning right at all.

    Im afraid I gave him a mouthful and a dose of my air zound. he gave me a mouthful back …..idiot.

  2. Clive August 9, 2010 at 9:10 am #

    Interesting article. I have recently started cycling home from work. Only a couple of days a week. I cycle from the City (St. Pauls) to Virginia Water in Surrey. I’m still getting used to city cycling, but I have observed that taxi and bus drivers in particular seem very aware of me as a cyclist which is great. Closer to home you need to be a little more cautious about overtaking a stationary bus as they don’t seem to be as aware of cyclists. And every now and again, I get the “lad” who thinks he is really funny by giving me very little room, hitting his horn and swerving in just as he passes!

    I do personally have a gripe with cyclists though. I have lost count of the number of times I have stopped for a red light only to see a cyclist ride straight through. It really annoys me both as a driver and cyclist. Some people really do believe they are not subject to the rules because they are cyclists – however, I stress this is a very small minority. I don’t know why they assume they can just ride through the light? Maybe the thrill of jumping a light or fighting with traffic that’s turning in their path is a thrill for them…Who knows?!

    But, from that perspective, I can see why drivers can have a low opinion of cyclists.

  3. jol July 12, 2010 at 12:34 pm #

    Pretty close agreement to all you say! But some extra stuff. I seem to be regarded as an eccentric because I ride a bike. Never mind the 3000 miles of “free” (6 inner tubes and 3 tyres, Thanks Puncture fairy!) commuter cyling that I have done this year. A colleague of mine was disappointed to learn that I had lost my driving licence and I had not had the nerve to tell any one! News to me too. There seems to be a difference between those who ride a bike thoughtfully and carefully as opposed to those who just cause terror and belive they have a right to go anywhere at any time. Locally a pedestrian has been killed by a cyclist on a footpath, and there now at last seems to be a little sense prevailing. However there is a couple (alternate days) who pull a trailer along a 3 mile commute to school on a busy footpath. Pedestrians have to walk in the road to avoid them, something wrong there? Personally I can’t stand being linked with the “stealth” cyclists who seem to think they have ninja like abilities on the public highway. Yes good article

  4. Min November 11, 2009 at 7:42 pm #

    I have been caught out without lights or with fading batteries before so I always feel I can’t really criticize other people for cycling without lights. Having said that I did once nearly run over a kid on a bike once. It was night and raining, I pulled up to a junction and looked right through my rain soaked window. Nothing. I looked forward and began to pull out when a child on a bike wearing dark clothing and with no lights or reflectors shot across in front of me. I did not see him at all, the combination of rain and dark made him invisible.

  5. jolly November 11, 2009 at 6:37 pm #

    I cycle 20 to 30 miles every day what ever the weather, in the dark in the rain sun ect. I try not to use a car and cycle for the shopping and my work. I have big panniers with reflective strips, good lights, reflective jacket. From my experience when it is tipping it down cars will pass within inches at speed, with no attempt to slow, and no regard for oncoming motorists, but on a bright sunny day are quite prepared to patiently wait behind.


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