Although we are more obsessed with safety on the road now more than at any other time in our history, with our cars being built with blind spot sensors and backup cameras, and with laws designed to eliminate the use of cell phones or fiddling with radios when driving, one important factor is consistently overlooked when we take to the road—pedestrians and, especially, cyclists.
Cyclists are a lot like motorcycle riders on the road: they’re smaller, harder to see, and are much more unpredictable than your typical motorist. You just never know what a cyclist is going to do next, and they’re much more vulnerable than we are.
Different, Yet Equal
Cyclists are almost universally deemed to be operators of vehicles, and are therefore granted the same rights on the road as any other motorist. When driving your rental car, you should expect to see cyclists on the road. Watch out for them, and treat them the same way you’d treat any other slow-moving vehicle.
Have Patience or You’ll Create Patients
It’s been said that patience is a virtue. This is especially true on the road—and it can save lives. Below are some ways in which you can practice this type of patience when driving your rental car:
- Wait until it’s safe to pass, and avoid tailgating
- Give cyclists the right-of-way when the situation calls for it
- Allow extra time for cyclists to clear an intersection
- Recognize road hazards that may be dangerous for cyclists, and give them the space to deal with them
Earn a Passing Grade
No matter how good of a driver you think you might be, never pass a cyclist until you know for a fact that you can safely do so. Make sure to allow plenty of space between your vehicle and the bicycle, and be sure that you don’t place the cyclist in any unnecessary danger. If you pass too closely to the cyclist, the drag from your rental car can actually pull the rider off course and cause them to swerve out of control.
Exhibit the Right Behavior
Keep your eyes peeled for cyclists when you go to make a right turn—a cyclist might be well to the right of you and could be planning to go straight at the same intersection you’re turning right at. Don’t speed ahead of them in the hope of completing your turn before they reach your position; the rider may be going faster than you might think, and they may not be able to avoid crashing into your vehicle when you slow to make your turn.
No—Your Other Left!
Don’t forget to look for cyclists whenever you make a left-hand turn, too. As with right turns, cyclists who are traveling straight through an intersection in the opposite direction of travel might be going faster than you think they are. This can be especially true (and dangerous) when they’re on a descending slope, causing them to pick up speed as they go.
Whenever you are obliged to parallel park your rental car, make sure the area around your door is clear before opening your door. Wait to open your door if there are cyclists riding alongside your car, or if they’re quickly approaching. Use your rearview and side mirrors, as well as physically turning around, to check for cyclists. It’s impossible for a cyclist to know when the door of a car they’re approaching will unexpectedly open up on them, but it’s insanely easy for a driver to detect an unwitting cyclist.
Cyclists have a right to the road. They also have a positive impact on the environment by not contributing to pollution or giving off harmful emissions. Don’t resent cyclists. Instead, replace frustration with a smile every time you see one.
Be Careful when You Blow Your Own Horn
Don’t unnecessarily honk at cyclists. If you do need to honk your horn to let a cyclist know you’re about to pass, make sure you’re a respectful distance away first. If you’re too close, the noise of the horn itself can startle the rider, and could potentially cause them to become disoriented or create a hazardous situation for everyone involved.
If You Can’t Beat ’Em, Join ’Em
If cyclists frustrate you, try joining them. Riding a bike can change your life. Cycling is good for the environment and it’s good for you. If nothing else, it will help you better appreciate the problems faced by cyclists every day with respect to motorists.