Sharing The Road With Cyclists
Ahhh, spring. The sun is shining, the birds are singing, the flowers are blooming, and the bikers are back on the road.
Now I know what you’re thinking, I heard the groan from here. But bikers have as much right to be on the road as drivers do. The difference is that when bikers are on the road, they’re more at risk for bodily harm than a driver will be. A helmet (for those that even wear them) will not protect a biker from getting t-boned by an SUV.
Unfortunately, many bikers don’t travel with the mindset that they’re extremely vulnerable to the traffic around them. They will still run right through stop signs and will change lanes without any sort of signal, so a lot of responsibility will be shifted over to the drivers of vehicles on the road. Here are some things you should know and be aware of when dealing with bikers on the road.
There are many laws that were written to protect cyclists and unfortunately many drivers don’t even know them. For example, a cyclist is required to ride one-metre away from the right curb, or as close to the side as possible. They can, however, use any part of the lane if they need to avoid obstacles or cross railways. They can also use the full lane when travelling faster than the normal speed of traffic or making a left turn.
When passing a cyclist, a driver is required to give one-metre of space while passing. To do this, the driver may cross the median line in order to give this space. If this isn’t possible, you will have to wait behind the bicycle until it is safe to do so. While this may be frustrating, don’t do anything that may startle the cyclist like honking your horn or tailgating them. They could lose focus and fall, causing even greater issues.
As you might have guessed by the name, dooring is when a driver/passenger of a vehicle opens their door in a way that may endanger other users of the road. When a cyclist gets hit by an opening door, it hurts. It can also be very dangerous if the biker falls into the lane of oncoming traffic.
While a cyclist really shouldn’t be riding between stopped cars on the road, some still do it, and it’s the vehicle user’s responsibility to check that the path is clear before they open their door. There are new penalties in place for anyone who “doors” someone: a $300 fine upon conviction and 3 demerit points, which also increases when you add in the $60 victim fine surcharge and $5 court costs.
There’s a lot going on while driving. Drivers really need to be aware of what’s going on around them at all times. With cars travelling at high speeds in all directions around you, it might be easy to miss a biker beside you. Again, there’s a big responsibility to you, the driver, to pay attention to who is on the road with you. Cyclists are significantly smaller and harder to notice than a car on the road, so always be aware that they could be there.
Assume The Worst
I’ve been driving for over 10 years now, and I have never been involved in an accident (knock on wood). I’ve managed this by assuming that everyone else on the road has no idea how to drive or what the laws are. If you’ve ever driven in the GTA, it almost seems like no one does. This is especially a good mindset to have when there are cyclists around you. Assume that the biker is going to just fly through the stop-light, drive in the middle of the lane and not make any effort to signal to you what they are going to do. If you assume this and drive with extreme caution, you should be better prepared for when they actually do happen.
It seems that the number of bikers on the road is increasing daily. With higher gas prices and a dying planet, more people are turning to the eco-friendly travel option (I suppose there’s that whole “healthier” thing people talk about too). Cities are trying to make it safer for car and bike riders to co-exist on the roads by adding things like bike lanes and bike signals to roads, but it’s still a work in progress. For now, the best thing you can do to keep everyone safe is just to be aware of who is on the road with you. And don’t drive like a jerk.