10 Things Cyclists Wish All Drivers Understood

Simple truths that we wish all drivers knew

The relationship between cyclists and drivers is rocky to say the least. Both parties will shake fists, curse and occasionally collide in disagreement. However, many of these frustrations come down to a lack of understanding on both sides.

A majority of cyclists will hold a driving license, and own a car. With this, they are fully aware of the highway code for both cyclists, and motorists. For drivers who aren’t cyclists, it’s easy to be unaware of a cyclists’ right of way.

We know a lot of drivers out there already know these things – but just to bring it all back home, here are ten truths we wish every driver knew.

Cycling 1 metre from parked cars


Often the kinds of roads that are lined with parked cars are also the narrow kinds – either made so by the parked vehicles, or just because it’s common in housing estates with windy streets.

Cyclists Shame Drivers Parked in Bike Lanes in Toronto

Either way, we often find drivers get upset that we’re riding ‘in the middle of the road’ in this case. This isn’t an intentional exercise to annoy the driver – cyclists need to leave a door’s width between themselves and parked cars, in case an unwitting occupant flings the door open in our path.

We’d also like those planning cycle lanes to know this, too – since cycle lanes that run along parking spaces are both extremely common, and extremely dangerous.

Traffic islands narrow the road

There is absolutely nothing wrong with a motorist overtaking a cyclist. Generally, the rider is moving more slowly, and they have no desire to lead a trail of irate drivers. However, there is a time and a place. Next to a traffic island is simply not the place.

Traffic islands narrow the road. They generally last for about a metre. Waiting until both rider and driver have passed the traffic island will make little difference to overall journey time but could make a dramatic difference to the cyclist’s peace of mind.

Overtaking and turning left is dangerous

We’re not really sure why this even happens. Sometimes, a driver will overtake, then turn immediately left which is dangerous as it cuts up the cyclist. In some cases, the cyclist is totally invisible to the driver’s blind spot.

What usually happens is a driver brakes right in front of the rider. This often causes a sudden pull on the brakes, providing the rider has quick enough reactions. If the cyclist fails to brake in time, the results could be a lot more dangerous. All it takes is for a driver to take those extra few moments to check around them before making a safe manoeuvre – this includes the blind spot!

Overtaking when view is restricted

To overtake, you need to move onto the other side of the road – leaving the same amount of space as you would when overtaking any other vehicle.

When approaching a corner, or the brow of a hill, it’s unlikely you can see what is coming, so you cannot safely move onto the other side of the road. So wait – it’s really not the end of the world to delay your journey by a few seconds.

We’re not erratic

Image: Steven Vance

While we try to hug the left hand side of the road, obstacles arise which cyclists really should try and avoid: potholes, drains, puddles and icy patches. While a driver may see a swerving cyclist as an erratic road hog, it’s usually for a good reason.

How to stay safe riding in icy conditions

A pothole can damage a car – but for a cyclist – it can damage the rider. Cyclists need to go around holes in the road, so they tend to ride a little way from the curb to ensure they have space to do so in case they come across a nasty crevice. Please allow them to do so, and give plenty of space should they need to swerve to avoid one.

Riding two abreast is legal

Image: Kent Velo Girls training together

This is probably the most misunderstood concept about road cycling. Riding two abreast is 100% legal. In fact, cyclists riding two abreast are easier to overtake when in a large group.

Ten cyclists, in a line, take up quite a lot of space, and they are hard to overtake because the driver needs to wait for a long stretch of clear road. Five riders, two abreast, are much easier to pass as the stretch available can be shorter.

In the same way, cyclists should not ride more than two abreast, as this will cause them to take too much of the lane.

Lycra doesn’t mean you’re trying to be all ‘Tour de France’

Lycra – not about being pro, but being comfortable

You don’t have to wear lycra to ride – there are some great non-lycra ranges available, that are usually suitable for shorter rides.

However, cycling jerseys, cycling shorts and cycling shoes are actually functional – they’re not about looking like you think you’re in the “Tour de France” (cos firstly, there isn’t a women’s one) – they just make the rider more comfortable, and thus more capable, and safer.

We’re not all *@!&’s

Not all cyclists are angry road warriors. If we tap your window, or chase after you, it’s probably because you did something to threaten our safety. So before you’re quick to react and shout from your car, or beep your horn, consider what actions lead to our frustration.

We’re not all the same

While it’s easy to group cyclists together, as a herd of road menaces, we’re all very different. Many of us will own cars, have families, careers and for some perhaps cycling is our career, it’s important to remember that we’re individuals as well.

One big factor that is often overlooked is the riding ability of the cyclist. As a driver, you feel pretty safe behind the wheel of your car, whereas a cyclist feels exposed and vulnerable. Although they can ride a bike competently, it could be their early days on the road, and an irate driver sitting on their rear wheel can be intimidating and cause an accident.

We’re doing you a favour

No, we’re not all eco-warriors trying to save the planet, but we are doing our part to help reduce emissions by riding our bikes.

With every cyclist riding their bike, there’s one less car on the road. One less car contributing to your traffic jam that’s making your late for work.

If driver’s had a better understand of what it takes to cycle on the roads, there would be a less of a social stigma surrounding cyclists, and a few less frustrated road users. Be safe and ride/drive aware.

You may also enjoy:

7 Things to you need to learn for a safer commute

TWC Catalogue of advice for beginner commuters

5 ways to make a cycle lane no rubbish

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