Ten Things Motorists and Cyclists Should Know about Each Other

Safety Corner logo

 

by Bob Zogg

 

 

Ten things that motorists should know about cyclists:

  1. I might be moving faster than you think. You may think cyclists move slowly, but sometimes we go fast—sometimes as fast as you. Please use caution when pulling out in front of me—allow as much distance as you would for another motorist.
  2. I get nervous when you follow me closely. Tailgating me will not let you pass any sooner. And, it’s really scary for me when you do. What if I fall—will you run over me? Please, keep your distance until it’s safe to pass.
  3. I can’t safely ride as close to the side of the road as you may think I can. It may appear to you that I’m not hugging the side of the road. But, I’ve got skinny tires that only work on pavement. If I’m too close to the edge of the pavement, one little wobble could put me in the ditch, face first.
  4. If I’m in the middle (or left side) of the lane, there’s probably a reason. I’m not out here because I’m oblivious, nor am I out here to deliberately impede your progress. I’m out here because a) it’s not safe for you to pass, b) there is a hazard to the right, or c) I’m preparing to turn.
  5. I can’t stop as fast as you can. You may be big and heavy, but you’ve got four huge tires, you’re low to the ground, and you have giant brakes—great for stopping. I have two skinny tires and I’m way up in the air—great for going over the handlebars or skidding out if I try to stop too fast.
  6. When you pass me, the gap you leave feels much smaller to me than it does to you. It’s really scary (and dangerous) when you pass me too closely. When you do so, there’s no room for error (your error, or mine). Plus, the wind almost knocks me over.
  7. When you pass me, you put me in a bind if you don’t finish the job. You wouldn’t side swipe a fellow motorist to return to your lane position, so why do you side swipe me? Please wait until it’s safe to pass. Avoiding oncoming traffic is your responsibility, not mine. And, if you’re planning to turn right soon, please don’t attempt to pass—you’ll cut me off when you turn.
  8. If you want to see me, you need to look for me—I don’t look like a car. We see what we are looking for, and we don’t see what we are not looking for. Please look for bicycles as well as cars.
  9. I’m not a child—even if I was, I would still deserve your respect. Some folks associate cycling with children, and some people don’t think children deserve respect. Please don’t be one of those people—my safety depends on it.
  10. It’s dangerous (and frustrating) when you take unfair advantage of your (bigger) size. You have thousands of pounds of steel to keep you safe, and so do your fellow motorists. If you squeeze a fellow motorist at low speeds, probably the worst that could happen is a fender bender. If you squeeze me, even at low speeds, I could be seriously injured or killed.

Ten things that cyclists should know about motorists:

  1. I don’t know what you’re going to do unless you tell me. I don’t read minds. Please signal your intentions whenever you can do so safely. Signal even if you don’t know I’m behind you, because I might be.
  2. I don’t know that you’re going to stop unless you actually stop. When you approach a stop sign, but don’t appear to be stopping, I have to slow down. I’m not slowing to let you pull out in front of me, I’m slowing because I can’t trust you to stop. Please don’t take advantage of me this way.
  3. If you ride where motorists don’t, I may not see you. I’m not accustomed to traffic moving any faster than a jogger unless that traffic is on the roadway (rather than hugging the shoulder or on the sidewalk). And, I’m certainly not expecting traffic going the wrong direction in the lane. If you want me to see you, ride where I’m looking.
  4. Traffic lights apply to you, too. I don’t get it—I don’t run traffic lights, and I have much less to lose than you. Please, wait your turn.
  5. I can’t pass you safely if you’re riding side by side or in a big group. Please be vigilant if you’re riding side by side, and single up so I have a chance to pass you safely. Please also keep your riding group small—it’s very tough to pass a large group safely, even if you are single file.
  6. It’s not OK to do what the cyclist in front of you did. Some of you act like you’re a string of train cars linked together with steel couplers—inseparable. What’s that about? Please make your own decisions—don’t just follow the leader.
  7. You’re really hard to see if your clothing is dark, even during the day. What’s with the dark colors? Do you have any idea how hard it is for me to see you? Brighten up a bit, please. It makes a huge difference.
  8. If riding after dusk, you need lights just as much as I do—maybe more. I have lights and I use them. How about you? Please plan ahead and be prepared if you might be out after dusk. Otherwise, I probably won’t see you.
  9. It’s dangerous when you change direction suddenly. I’m not as nimble as you, and may not be able to swerve to miss you. Please ride predictably.
  10. It’s dangerous (and frustrating) when you take unfair advantage of your (smaller) size. I know that I’m big and heavy, and that I could hurt or kill you. When I have the right of way, please don’t take advantage of me by assuming that I’m too nice to risk hitting you. Besides, the next motorist might not be that nice.

Please send corrections, additions, comments and praise to

© 1997- CRW, Inc. All rights reserved. Revised: