Cyclists are flesh and blood

“People on bikes aren’t just obstacles, something to be avoided. They are flesh and blood: Mums and Dads, Brothers and Sisters, Sons and Daughters.”  (taken from Space video)

2015 09 08 Supermarket TripI’ve been cycling for years, mainly off-road mountain biking, but still that usually means going on sections of road to link the trails so I’m no stranger to cycling on a road.

Today, I decided to cycle to the supermarket, 5.5 miles away on a wide A-road which goes through villages and moorland. I’ve cycled on that section of road quite a few times and know it’s a fast, busy road with trucks flying past. However, it’s also a wide open road meaning that there’s plenty of overtaking opportunity for vehicles and no reason for them not to give bikes a wide berth.

It was an overcast day, so I had 3 back lights switched on to make me more visible to vehicle drivers.

Despite the wide road and my visibility, I encountered the single most frightening incident I’ve ever had with a car while I’ve been out on my bike.

A lorry overtook me (giving me space), swiftly followed by a car (which gave me space) and then straight after that, a Toyota Rav4 came past. The Toyota was inches from my right hand as it came past and then cut right in front of me, causing me to back off from the pedals – and I was going uphill so definitely not faster than expected!

I’m a car driver, so I can understand the frustration which comes from being stuck behind a cyclist on the road. I also understand that it can be difficult to get past cyclists. I’ve even seen cyclists doing really stupid things like going up the inside of a vehicle turning left at a junction.

But a car nearly taking a cyclist out when overtaking them on a wide open main road?

Surely that has to go down as pure bad driving, lack of attention and a complete lack of spatial awareness of the size of your vehicle?

Anyone who regularly rides a bike on a road will understand exactly what I’m waffling on about here.

A cyclist often can’t cycle close into the side of the road due to debris, grates, oily patches, ice and poor road surface (although on this occasion today, I was fairly close to the kerb).

Avoiding a poor road surface along the side of the road is not about comfort – it’s about avoiding danger. Hitting a pothole while on your bike can result in a few different outcomes, including a buckled front wheel (which would mean a cyclist coming off their bike), a force taking the steering momentarily out of your grip (meaning the bike veering around), or an over the bars fall from the bike.

None of these are recommended with a car overtaking right next to you.

Strong gusts of wind can cause a cyclist to wobble or veer off their course. This can also be the case when a large fast moving vehicle overtakes too closely. It makes sense to give space.

So if you’re out in your car and come across a bike, please, please, please give them some room when you’re overtaking. Treat them like you would a car and pull right over the other side of the road to get past them.

Cyclists have no protection from a fast moving piece of metal flying past them – hit them and you’ll hurt them.

I was very nearly in a nasty accident today. I’m somebody’s friend. I’m somebody’s family. I’m a real person, not just some anonymous slow moving 2 wheeled metal bicycle.

There are a couple of really good short videos by Carlton Reid, featuring Chris Boardman, about overtaking cyclists.  They give the facts, the Highway Code and dispel a few myths.

Definitely worth a watch (only a couple or so minutes long):

  1. Space  (how to safely overtake cyclists)
  2. Side by Side  (the legalities of cyclists riding two abreast)

Thank you 🙂

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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