How to be a better driver and cyclist
There's no need for animosity on the road. Here are some top tips to help us all get along.
If, as a driver, your journey is held up by a slower-moving road user – whether a car, a tractor, cyclist or horse – then be patient. As the Highway Code (rule 125) says, “you should always reduce your speed when sharing the road with pedestrians, cyclists and horse riders, particularly children, and motorcyclists.
In October 2018, the government announced that it was reviewing the Highway Code to further protect cyclists and pedestrians, by particularly focusing on the issue of close passing. The revisions will also advocate the “Dutch reach”, a method of opening doors with the hand furthest from the door, to force drivers to look over their shoulder for passing traffic.
This follows increasingly close pass operations by police, which have seen drivers stopped and fined for not leaving cyclists enough space.
There's a divide among experts on the use of flashing lights, hi-vis and reflective clothing to make it easier for cyclists, pedestrians and horse riders to be seen by motorists. Some say you can't be too visible and encourage all of the above, but others worry that doing so puts the onus on vulnerable road users rather than drivers to avoid an accident, and that if everyone used flashing lights and hi-vis, it would become the norm and so lose its effectiveness.
Regardless of who is wearing what - motorists, keep your eyes open!
But equally, faster road users should be patient with slower-moving traffic, and only overtake when it's safe to do so. It's better to lose a minute or two or time than to risk someone's life.
Conversely, many people get het up about cyclists doing things that, in fact, they’re supposed to do. Riding two abreast, for example, is encouraged because it means that drivers spend less time on the opposite side of the road when overtaking than they would if two riders were nose-to-tail. This is particularly true with larger groups of cyclists. When you consider how much space you should give when overtaking a cyclist, if there isn’t room to overtake two abreast, then there isn’t room to overtake at all.
Annoyed with a cyclist in the middle of the road? Well, don’t be. There’s no rule to say that cyclists should hug the kerb, and in fact it’s actively discouraged because of the amount of detritus that can gather there and cause a hazard. Cyclists are advised to “take the lane” where necessary to dissuade impatient drivers from overtaking dangerously. At the same time, though, cyclists should remember not to hold up traffic unnecessarily. On narrow, or busy roads, and around bends, ride single file and let congested traffic through where practical.
Cycle lanes can be very useful, but it’s not compulsory for cyclists to use them. The UK doesn’t have the best cycle network in the world, and quite often cycle lanes are not fit for purpose, or are badly maintained. Cyclists are well within their rights to use the road instead.