How to Drive Safely Around Cyclists (And Not Get Annoyed by Them)

traffic safety

Ahh, the marvelous wonders of nature. A flock of migratory boards soaring over the sea. A herd of wildebeests crossing a savannah. A school of fish darting to and fro over a coral reef. And, perhaps most magnificent and unexpected of all, a gaggle of cyclists in Spandex and pointy helmets blocking up the road.

OK, so perhaps that last one is not as inspiring as some of the previous sights of beautiful animals in nature, but you have to admit it is at least impressive to see them all out there on the road in their skin-tight outfits with their expensive bicycles and hunched form, making like they’re Lance Armstrong, but powered by vegan granola bars instead of human growth hormone.

Alright, maybe that’s a stereotype – I’m quite sure that cyclists come in all shapes and sizes, and not all of them have the pointy helmets and the spandex suits. Some of them are just people like you and me, and not dressed like astronauts. And even those who are dressed like astronauts deserve some kind of respect, if only for daring to ride on tiny, unprotected, pedal-powered vehicles next to giant trucks and people pulling Jet Skis and teenagers driving the family minivan for the first time ever. They are brave!

Very brave indeed, actually. So brave that they are willing to ride in huge packs beside traffic, and, sometimes, actually get in the way of traffic and make it hard for you to pass them. Have you ever experienced that? Did it bother you? Even if you are a cyclist yourself, you have to admit that it can be a bit of an inconvenience.

But don’t worry – there are ways that automobile drivers and pedal pushers can get along just fine. Here are a few tips to help promote precisely that Utopian reality.

Tip #1 – Show Cyclists a Little Respect

Although many cyclists are the same size as you or me, they can look really tiny through our car windows. Out there, in the heat, on their tiny bicycles, pedaling away. But actually, cyclists deserve our respect, like any other occupant of the road, and we should show them that respect by giving them a little space and passing them as it is safe and sensible to do so. Driving behind or around a cyclist is not the time to get impatient. Remember: they can’t move as fast as we can in our cars. Their bicycles are powered by their legs, not by motors, and they cannot make moves as quickly as automobile drivers can. Show them some patience, show them some respect, and help keep everyone safe.

Tip #2 – Expect the Unexpected

You never know where you will see a cyclist. Even if there isn’t a bicycle lane on the road you’re driving on, there could be a cyclist on it just the same. Always look out for cyclists and be particularly cautious in conditions where your visibility is affected. If it’s foggy, or the morning or evening sun is your eyes, or the light is growing dim and it is hard to see, or it’s simply nighttime, be on the lookout for cyclists. Unfortunately, they don’t always make themselves super visible, and they can be just as reckless as car drivers, at times. Do your best to expect the unexpected.

Tip #3 – Know Your Hand Signals

Bicycles are small, and they don’t have room for all those fancy indicators we use on our big motor vehicles. For that reason, cyclists use their hands to signal what they are doing, much like mimes or air traffic controllers. If a cyclist sticks their left arm out straight, that means they are turning left. If they hold their left arm straight up or hold their right arm out straight, it means they are turning right. And if they face the palm of their hand back towards you, it means they are stopping. That last one is important, because it isn’t always easy to tell a cyclist’s speed, and their bicycles don’t have brake lights. Watch their hands, and you’ll know what they’re going to do next.

Putting Your Best Wheel Forward

Whether two wheels or four, motor or not, we’re all out here on the road, aren’t we? We’re all people. And people are people, and people have to watch out for each other. So even though cyclists sometimes get on your nerves a little during your commute, treat them like people, prioritize both their safety and yours, and keep everyone’s wheels rolling safely and surely on the road.