Safe Cycling is a Two-Way Street

Regrettably, there are many things that drivers frequently do that make things very unsafe for people on bicycles, but of course that isn’t the full story.

A photograph of bicyclists who sensibly are in conspicuous clothing, but only one is being wise enough to wear a safety helmet.
Cyclists who sensibly are in conspicuous clothing, but only one is being wise enough to wear a safety helmet. (Copyright image.)

The bad driving can include:

  • Passing too close when passing a bicyclist (and no, despite some states’ new rules, a mere three-foot gap is often nowhere near enough for safety — see Three Feet is Too Close to pass a Bicycle – See the UK Way! );
  • Failing to see nearby cyclists because of not looking properly, especially where vehicle blindspots are involved;
  • “Dooring” a cyclist by opening the door of a parked vehicle into the immediate path of the bicycle.
Photo showing Bicyclists in busy, downtown traffic, at potential risk from "dooring" if somebody opens a car door without looking behind, and also at risk from vehicles ahead when drivers turn right without proper observations.
Bicyclists in busy, downtown traffic, at potential risk from “dooring” if somebody opens a car door without looking behind, and also at risk from vehicles ahead when drivers turn right without proper observations. (Copyright image.)

All of these actions can and frequently do prove fatal to the cyclists concerned — even dooring can make a rider swerve or fall into the path of another, moving vehicle!  But equally, all of these incidents can be avoided by thinking enough and looking properly.

Another significant issue is that of road rage from drivers, some of whom astonishingly even believe that cyclists have no right to be on the road.  Believing such nonsense is one thing, but when those drivers then start to display road rage and endanger the riders, it becomes quite another.

Now, having said all of that, we cannot ignore the fact that some cyclists give all of their colleagues a bad name by acting as though they are somehow immune from all of the road laws and common sense or common decency.

Just this morning, I saw a very valid meme online, complaining that while cyclists want to be treated as though they were in a motor vehicle, some of them then go and break the rules for:

  • Stop lights and signs;
  • Yield signs;
  • One-way streets (see the “Do Not Enter” photo, below);
A sign showing "Do Not Enter," followed by "No Bikes," an addition which should not be needed.
Is it due to neglect or failure by law enforcement officers when signs like this are erected?   The “No Bikes” footnote should be an absolute given. (Copyright image.)
  • Failing to yield to pedestrians at crosswalks;
  • Forcing their way unsafely through intersections;
    Using lanes incorrectly;
  • Endangering pedestrians by riding on sidewalks;
  • Unsafe passing;
  • Not using lights, front and rear, at night;
  • Riding side-by-side where it is unsafe to do so;
  • Riding on the wrong side of the road, into the oncoming traffic.
1st photo in a sequence of three, showing a pedal cyclist riding through a red light and dodging around a cross-flow vehicle that was on a green light.
1st photo in a sequence of three, showing a pedal cyclist riding through a red light and dodging around a cross-flow vehicle (the brown car) that was on a green light. (Copyright image.)

The series of three photographs, within this article, were taken by me very recently, during the lunch break on one of our advanced driving courses in Washington DC, and show just one example of how cyclists not only get themselves a bad reputation and annoys pedestrians who are lawfully crossing the road, but also take risks that could end up getting themselves hurt or killed.

2nd photo in a sequence of three, showing a pedal cyclist riding through a red light and dodging around a cross-flow vehicle that was on a green light.
2nd photo in a sequence of three, showing a pedal cyclist riding through a red light and dodging around a cross-flow vehicle that was on a green light. (Copyright image.)

So, cyclists, just as we at Advanced Drivers of North America [ADoNA] will always speak out against people who drive badly and thereby jeopardise your safety, so — equally — we will always speak out against those individual cyclists who ride badly and jeopardize themselves or others as a result.

3rd photo in a sequence of three, showing a pedal cyclist riding through a red light and dodging around a cross-flow vehicle that was on a green light.
3rd photo in a sequence of three, showing a pedal cyclist riding through a red light and dodging around a cross-flow vehicle that was on a green light. (Copyright image.)

It is an obvious but all-too-often neglected fact that a bit of mutual respect goes a very long way.

Author: EddieWren

Eddie Wren is the CEO and Chief Instructor at Advanced Drivers of North America. His driver safety background is given at: http://www.advanceddrivers.com/ceochief-instructors-resumecvbio/

18 thoughts on “Safe Cycling is a Two-Way Street”

  1. In the UK it I a specific offence to open a car door injudiciously endangering another road user or pedestrian punishable by a substantial fine and even arrest if injury or death is caused. If it results in serious injury or death then it could be regarded as a serious crime resulting in a prison sentence.
    Unfortunately many cyclists in this country seem to think that complying with road traffic laws simply do not apply to them but they do.

    1. Indeed, Alan. The UK has long been a leader in the introduction of laws for greater traffic safety, although the Government’s drastic cuts in the numbers of police officers in Britain — having been excessively and very naively focussed on traffic patrol officers — is undeniably a massive setback for enforcement and for saving lives on the roads.

      As for your second comment, about unlawful behaviour by cyclists, I couldn’t agree more. It represents 50 per cent of my motivation for writing the article.

      Thank you for posting your thoughts.

  2. ‘Cyclists’ are a pretty diverse group, you have idiots like the guy in the above photos to athletes who are riding $10k bikes, doing 2-300km per week – and everything in between. Tarring cyclists with the same brush doesn’t help. From my experience, if you asked the guy in the above photo if he is a cyclist, I would expect him to say no. I would also suggest, the bulk of rule breaking by cyclists would be from people on this side of the fraternity.
    Why does this cohort seem to break the rules more often, is it ignorance, disconnect from the system, care factor…..?
    I do about 200km per week on my bike, all for exercise. I train in a group and sometimes alone. Generally speaking, I would get very close to the rule limits in my car a lot more often than when cycling, significantly more often. I very rarely see bunch members break road rules when cycling. I know my comments have some elements of bias in there and have tried to account for that.

    1. Thanks for your useful comments, Luke.

      With reference to your remark about “tarring [all] cyclists with the same brush doesn’t help,” I hope you noticed the paragraphs where I wrote: “…we cannot ignore the fact that *some* cyclists give all of their colleagues a bad name,” and “…so — equally — we will always speak out against *those individual cyclists* who ride badly and jeopardize themselves or others as a result.” [Asterisks added for this reply.]

  3. Excellent article – everyone is responsible to respect road rules. Cyclists should also be fined for breaking road rules and riding unroadworthy bicycles – this would assist in sending a clear message.

  4. That is terrible news, and I hope the poor woman makes a full recovery. I also hope that if the cyclist is found to have been in violation of the law when the incident occurred, that they are duly and appropriately punished. I think it is worth making the point that this article uses the same misleading wording that we often complain about when it is used by the Gardai with regard to accidents involving cyclists in stating that the pedestrian was in “a collision with a cyclist when the Garda statement is (ironically) more accurate in stating that the pedestrian “was struck by a cyclist. Of course Garda statements referring to driver/cyclist incidents usually say that the driver was (unsurprisingly) unharmed, as Citizen Wolf points out this is not indicated in this case when harm is far more likely to have occurred. I think the distinction made by the Gardai is based on the categorization of a bicycle as a form of vehicle, which it is, though it implies a false equivalence between two vastly different objects and does not take account of the significantly greater vulnerability of the cyclist relative to the driver.

    1. Thanks for your reply, Thomas, but I must assume that you have tunneled down through various links to find the article you are actually referring to in your comments because they have nothing to do with the blog page that was posted yesterday.

  5. Some cyclists…the phrase could also be used as ‘some drivers’, not are all the same nor should they be treated the same.

    However…..there is one big difference and I will simply ask the question…”What carnage would society have to endure if there was no compulsory training for drivers?” In my own honest and simple opinion there should be a simple, basic and fit for purpose system of training for ALL road users. No system of training is perfect and is not the ‘silver bullet’ to all ills on the road but it is a start.
    ‘Training is the most cost effective bolt on accessory that money can buy’.

    1. Indeed, Roger, and you will see that between the photo of the city-centre cycle-lane and the photo of the No Entry / Do Not Enter sign, I have stated “some cyclists” twice. But given our mutual background that we are both retired UK traffic patrol police officers, I’m sure we are in full agreement on that aspect. And I agree with you other point, too — especially as virtually all young cyclists go on to become drivers or motorcycle riders — cohesion between mandatory cycle training and subsequent driving lessons would be a very advantageous approach.

  6. Ah, the 60s in the UK when every kid with a bike had to do their ‘cycling proficiency’ test before being allowed to cycle to school. When I was stopped crossing a stop line although there was no traffic anywhere to be seen. When you would stop and dismount after dark if you had no lights. Ah, the days when there were Bobbies on the beat concerned with policing the all the laws including those in the Highway Code. Sadly there is no longer respect for the rules of the road, other road users and, if they were to come across one, the police.
    The UK Highway Code is only enforced where it can be by machines, speed and red light cameras etc. and though it is taught to new car drivers is no longer applicable to cyclists. Many stupid acts by cycling law-breakers go without either being recognised as such by the police or result in serious injury or death.
    So whatever the size of the problem or however much it annoys law-abiding motorists and cyclists, the behaviour of the majority makes it acceptable. The next time a helmetless, light-free, dark clothed, non-reflective cyclist leaps from the pavement, through the red light and crosses your thoroughly legitimate path; It’s your choice – brake and accept they have some form of collective, custom and practise right of way or don’t brake and hope the law agrees with your stance on teaching the Highway Code at the point of use!

    1. Unfortunately, Rob, the USA has nothing even remotely close in quality or content to the Highway Code to fall back on. They do have state drivers’ manuals but the inadequacy and inaccuracy of those documents has to be seen to be believed. Indeed, some of the so-called “advice” given in state driver’s manuals is downright dangerous, to the extent that I wrote a research paper that was published at the Society of Automotive Engineers [SAE] World Congress in Detroit in 2007, under the deliberately pugnacious title of State Drivers’ Manuals Can Kill Your Kids! https://www.sae.org/publications/technical-papers/content/2007-01-0445/ (The SAE charge $28 for the paper, but that’s for them, not me! LOL)

      1. But the Highway Code is pointless if it isn’t policed, which it isn’t. We may have to accept that, however dangerous it looks, cycling as a complete Muppet does not result in the UK into a significant number (financially viable) of deaths and serious injury cases.
        I’m not sure what 818 is as a percentage of US cyclists, but I’m guessing it’s not a significant enough figure to warrant any real action. Do you have figures on cyclists shot by annoyed car drivers?

        1. I don’t really know where you are trying to go with this, Rob. We all know that over the past 8-10 years the ruling Conservative Party has reduced police numbers in Britain by well over 20,000 officers, and as a retired UK traffic patrol police officer myself, I am painfully aware that ignorant people have targeted the roads policing units as being the most disposable, yet already research is indicating that Britain’s very recent failures — in terms of the rate of road deaths each year — to stay up at the forefront of global road safety, is at least partially due to this major cut in the relevant police. Britain at least has got a good Highway Code, good traffic laws, and good basic (‘learner’) driver training & testing, but now has ludicrous politicians pulling down decades of success and maximized safety on UK roads. (Incidentally, here in the USA, where the ‘per capita’ rate of road deaths is consistently the poorest performance in the ~30 developed nations of the world, the 818 fatally injured cyclists represent more than two percent of all road casualties and I would argue that is *not* a figure to be brushed aside.)

  7. Ask yourself how many vehicular users break laws or make errors daily with the results that they get away with it or they create fatal and serious crashes within the transport system?
    Then ask yourself how many cyclists each day kill pedestrians, vehicular drivers? by not:
    Stop lights and signs; Yield signs; One-way streets; Failing to yield to pedestrians at crosswalks;
    Forcing their way unsafely through intersections;
    Using lanes incorrectly;
    Endangering pedestrians by riding on sidewalks;
    Unsafe passing;
    Not using lights, front and rear, at night;
    Riding side-by-side where it is unsafe to do so;
    Riding on the wrong side of the road, into the oncoming traffic
    Lets put this in perspective people sure cyclists are not all good guys the difference is significant in the case of road trauma, people and communities. So lets focus onto real safety issues that are really causing harm.

    1. John, I’m sorry but since when has the number of *other* road users that cyclists kill been a criterion in whether or not this is — as you put it — a “real safety issue”?

      In 2015 — the last calendar year for which I currently have the specific figures — no fewer than 818 bicyclists were killed on America’s roads. Do you seriously think that is not sufficiently serious to warrant attention? Do you think that the focus on Vulnerable Road Users is somehow misguided? Now, of course some of those cyclists who died did so because of bad driving by those in charge of motor vehicles, but I clearly mentioned joint responsibilities and fault in the original article.

      For the record, the policy for this website is that we will deal with as many aspects of traffic safety and safe driving as we have adequate knowledge to cover (because far too much so-called “advice” in this country is written by people who have far too little knowledge and write garbage as a result, and I specifically DO include the majority of government workers at both state and national level in this condemnation).

      1. Good point Eddie but check your 818 bicyclists that were killed on America’s roads and see how many of them killed or seriously injured other road users. Yes it is bad that cyclist, like most road users, do not follow the traffic rules.
        I guess the question is are those rules appropriate and will the rules actually save the lives of cyclists as we have the evidence to show that or do they just feel good and help everyone to blame someone for the failures inherent within the transportation system?

        1. John, are you a statistical or analytical expert? I know I’m not and I won’t pretend to be. However, as has been mentioned several times on this website, I do know that the USA — despite frequent nonsensical claims that it does alright in road safety — is actually the consistently the worst performing of the 30 most developed nations of the world, with a rate of road deaths more than four times worse than the leading nations. Yet in a country that has — to use an American expression — “more money than God,” there is absolutely no excuse whatsoever for this outrageous state of affairs. And the rate of deaths for cyclists is comparatively “up there,” too.

          If you want to see more about the US situation compared to other, far safer nations, please use the Search box on any page and check out both Standards and Statistics.

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