I have written frequently about the frustrations, joys and fears of a cyclist. Dealing with White Van Drivers – Dealing 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.
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.
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.