Motoring Advice

Top tips for safe driving around cyclists

Apr 21, 2020

Top tips for safe driving around cyclists

Share the road considerately with our two-wheeled friends thanks to our list of top tips.

1. Give them space

Perhaps the one that we all forget. The idea is to leave about 1.5 metres between the nearside (passenger-side) of your vehicle and the cyclist you are passing and – for reference – most modern cars are between 1.7- and 2.0 metres wide. So you’re talking about almost a car width between you and the cyclist. That means you need a wide road to safely pass, especially if it’s a wet or windy day, as the cyclist may be pushed off course or skid on the damp surface, but even in dry weather the cyclist may need to take sudden emergency avoidance measures of another obstacle. This is not always easy to do, especially in a busy urban area, but never leave less than one metre space. It may mean you have a wait a few seconds until there is sufficient room to overtake.

2. Check mirrors and blind spots

This rule applies to driving whether there’s a cyclist there or not. You should make regular glances into all of your mirrors at all times, to know what traffic is just behind and potentially moving up alongside you. If you do that anyway, then checking your mirrors and blind spots will mean you should register cyclists that you might otherwise have missed. Watch particularly for cyclists pulling out of junctions and moving onto roundabouts.

3. Use clear signals, recognise theirs

Again, the first part of this rule isn’t something specific to driving near cyclists – you should always use your indicators nice and early anyway. But signalling at the last minute and swerving into a side road can be particularly hazardous for any cyclists that are near your car, as they won’t be expecting it and will likely collide with your vehicle. Also give a signal if you’re pulling out of a line of parked cars at the side of the road, as there may be a cyclist riding up the road alongside the stationary vehicles who is not expecting one of them to suddenly move out. Also look for tell-tale signs from the cyclist that they’re about to make a manoeuvre – while they have a variety of arm signals for turning and slowing down that they can use, if they’re approaching a junction at reasonable speed and need to brake/steer their bicycle, it might not be easy for them to signal with their arms. One clear indicator that they are planning a manoeuvre is that they look over their shoulder, to see what traffic is behind them; learn to anticipate from that gesture and hold back until they have completed their intended move.

4. Adhere to road laws

Again, this advice might seem blindingly obvious and not specifically related to cyclists. But if you know a quiet junction where there’s a ‘STOP’ or a ‘GIVE WAY’ sign, and you’re tempted to just roll straight on out because there are never any cars coming, make sure you actually do stop and look again – there may be a cyclist coming that you’ve not spotted or accounted for. Similarly, being an ‘amber gambler’ at the traffic lights is dangerous enough at the best of times, but if you’re illegally shooting through a junction perpendicular to traffic that’s moving off under a green light, you’re going to have a crash – and if you hit a cyclist in such circumstances, it will not end well for the cyclist at all. Also, do not park or drive in marked cycle lanes, as that will impede cyclists who are riding legally and out of the way of traffic.

5. Look before you get out your car

A common accident involving cyclists and cars happens when the latter is parked, stationary. When you’ve parked your car at the side of the road and you’re about to get out of it, have one last, good look in your offside (driver’s side) mirror (assuming you’ve parked with your car’s orientation matching the flow of traffic in your lane) – that way, you won’t inadvertently open your car door right into the path of an oncoming cyclist.