Five Things Cyclists Wish Motorists Were More Mindful of

August 21, 2018


Cycling Safety


Ella Donald

As our cities become more congested, there’s a turf war raging on our roads. Motorists argue that cyclists should be subject to the same regulations they are; licensing, restricted to certain areas; while the other side argues that people behind the wheel need to adapt to the new rules of the road. Both arguments aside, one thing is clear — only a few of those objecting to cyclists and calling for restrictions know what it’s like to be in the saddle. 

Whether it’s your blood turning to ice when a car speeds pass with mere centimetres or a car door flung open with little regard for surroundings, there’s a unique terror to being on two wheels in a four-wheeled world. Both are subject to the same laws, so what could motorists know about cyclists to make everyone’s daily commute a bit more harmonious? Here are five points to start.

1. They have the right to use the road 

Many are disbelieving of this, believing that footpaths are the correct place for them, but bicycles are classed as vehicles, therefore they are permitted to use the roads, entitled to the same rights, and also obligated to follow the same responsibilities as motorists.

Cyclists must follow the same road rules in addition to bicycle rules and are subject to the same penalties if they don’t. Be sure to follow the rules about cooperating on the roads - in Queensland, motorists get 3 demerit points and a $391 fine if you do not give the minimum distance when you pass a bicycle rider. If the matter goes to court, a maximum fine of more than $5,200 can apply.

2. Riding in the middle of the lane is for safety reasons 

When you see a rider in the middle of the lane instead of keeping to one side, you might think of a few things. After all, wouldn’t allowing cars to pass them make sense? As it turns out, that actually makes the road less safe for all involved. There’s a couple of reasons for this. One is avoiding poor road surfaces on the side, that would cause accidents sure to endanger pedestrians, motorists, and other cyclists.

Another is to avoid parked cars; if a passenger was to suddenly open their door without looking, a car dooring would cause significant injuries to all involved. But particularly at peak hour, riding in the middle of the road is, again, to keep everyone safe. “Riding in the middle of the road (in congestion) will also make it easier for cyclists to overtake other traffic on the outside if it comes to a halt, which should be safer than going up the inside,” Cycling Weekly says. We can’t object to that.

3. It may be hard for cyclists to hear you 

On two wheels, you’re subject to all the elements and can’t do much about it, including most commonly, wind. When it’s whistling in your ears and buffeting your head, it can be near impossible to hear. This can make it difficult when trying to be perceptive of surroundings, which is something to keep in mind when sharing the road. Never assume a cyclist can simply hear you as you are driving up behind them and give a wide berth.

"Cyclist deaths are up 80% in Australia the past year-with mandatory helmet laws. To your point, it's not the helmets that are what dictates if a cyclist lives or dies here. It's cars. Especially as in many of those deaths riders were riding solo ("single file" as the catch cry goes)" - Nick Squillari

4. Bikes are faster than you think 

Two wheels it may be, but bikes can compete with cars when it comes to speed. A bike can reach speeds of 40km/hr on a flat road and much faster when hitting a decent downhill slope. This is something to think about at all times, particularly before you pull into an intersection in front of a bike, pulling out from a parking spot, or doing a U-turn on a main road; it will be a struggle to stop in time, endangering both motorist and cyclist.

In fact, according to the Queensland Government, one of the most common offences for those travelling on two wheels are exceeding the speed limit in a speed zone by less than 13km/h.

5. Riding side by side is safer than riding in a line 

The great enemy of Saturday morning drivers anywhere; the bunch rides that fill the roads with dozens of cyclists. These groups of riders, two or three abreast, may make you wish they’d ride single file in a long line to take up less of the lane instead, but that actually makes it less safe for all involved.

“Cyclists are some of our most vulnerable road users and can often be difficult for drivers to see, so by riding two abreast, they are more likely to be seen by drivers and given more space,” Robyn Seymour from VicRoads says.

Ella Donald

Ella is a Brisbane based writer for Smith's Lawyers who has written for many noteworthy publications including Vanity Fair, CNN, GQ Middle East, The Guardian, Fairfax, and The Saturday Paper. She covers topics such as entertainment and arts, sport, fashion, food, social and cultural issues, health and beauty, technology, law and travel. She also teaches at the University of Queensland in the School of Communication and Arts.