5 Cycling Tips for Getting Along with Drivers

by Kevin Gray
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5 Cycling Tips for Getting Along with Drivers

We’ve all been there.

You’re riding your bike, minding your own business, and even doing a steady clip of 18–20 mph. But that’s not fast enough for the car behind you. The driver honks, gets too close and eventually speeds by at an unnecessary speed just to intimidate you.

The shouts of “Get on the sidewalk!” aren’t productive. They’re also legally wrong, as cyclists adhere to the same rules as cars, not pedestrians.

So as a cyclist, it pays to bike defensively. Always beware of your surroundings and take care when changing lanes or navigating intersections. While we can’t make cars respect cyclists’ right to the roadways, we can adopt certain measures to mitigate tension and protect ourselves in the process.

We’re all in this together, whether we like sharing the streets or not. So read on for five tips to not antagonize drivers — and most important, to keep you safe on the road.

1. KEEP IT COLORFUL

That all-black kit might look cool, but it’s not doing you any visibility favors. Wearing a bright jersey can certainly help and is a great starting point. But a Clemson University study found that fluorescent-yellow leg coverings are the better choice. In an experiment, cyclists with bright legs were recognized easier on the road, because our eyes are naturally drawn to movements like pedaling. So sport some shorts with a pop of color and never go unnoticed again.

2. REFLECTORS ARE YOUR FRIEND

Installing a good reflector, or even a blinking light, on the back of your bike is a smart decision. Adding reflectors to the back of your shoes or ankles is even better. Just like the fluorescent leg coverings, drivers are drawn more to the movement than the color itself. If your reflectors move with each pedal stroke, you’ll be more visible to those around you. Rather than strapping a plastic red reflector onto your lower leg, you can purchase reflective tape or even reflective socks.

3. ALWAYS RIDE WITH TRAFFIC

Unlike runners, cyclists should always ride in the same direction as traffic. If you ride against traffic, you’re in serious danger around every curve where sightlines are limited. Also, when drivers turn right, they often look only to their left, as they’re not expecting anyone coming at them from the other direction. Don’t be an unpleasant surprise.


READ MORE > HOW TO FALL OF A BIKE AND NOT GET HURT


4. EMPLOY HAND SIGNALS

Simply waving your arms around will get you noticed, but knowing which hand signals to employ in which situation can prove helpful to everyone around you — whether driver or cyclist. A straight arm to your right or left signals you’re turning in that direction and is probably the most important hand sign you can use. See more cycling hand signals here.

5. IT’S YOUR LANE — USE IT

This won’t win you any love from the cars behind you, but riding in the middle of the right lane is generally safer than moving all the way to the right. It keeps you front and center — and visible — and it keeps cars from pushing you onto the shoulder or into a curb as they try to squeeze past you.

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  • Paul Whitcomb

    #5 5. IT’S YOUR LANE — USE IT

    Totally irresponsible, illogical and rude. The travel lane is for motorists.., not bicycles. Keep as far to the right as possible on a bike, to avoid hindering traffic and causing conflict.
    If a driver can’t see you beside him, to his right, he has a visual impairment (tunnel vision) that should prevent him from owning a drivers license. This condition is rare.
    Cars can not “push you” onto a shoulder or curb, this is due to a cyclist’s own exaggerated, panicked reaction to a motor vehicle he or she considers to be too close.
    If “taking the lane” becomes the norm, there will be a war between motorists and cyclists. Stay to the right and stay single file. This is good cycling etiquette.

    • HarryMonmouth

      I agree totally. There is perhaps an argument for moving away from the edge for safety reasons when going around a roundabout, but in those circumstances traffic should really be moving at the same sort of pace as a cyclist can manage anyway. I always figure that if there are a certain number of crashes involving cyclists (which there are) then the safest course of action for a cyclist is to stay as far from the cars as possible. That has to place you in the percentage of people that are less likely to be knocked down. I seriously get the impression that some cyclists deliberately try to antagonise drivers in order to promote the necessity for dedicated cycle paths. I would love it if governments and councils would create more cycle paths, but slowing everyone down while bumbling around the countryside is not the way to do it.

    • Gary Harkins

      Paul, I agree with most everything you say except “cars cannot “push you” onto a shoulder or curb.” I had a triple trailer logging truck in Oklahoma run me off the road and it wasn’t my imagination!!! As he was approaching me from behind he started blowing his horn as if he expected me to get off the road. He had the whole oncoming lane to pass me but he got next to me and just started coming over with every intent of running me off the road. In fact his passenger side tires came off the pavement while he was still alongside me. Had I not been aware of what he was doing and went onto the shoulder he would have hit me and it probably would have been fatal.

  • Captain Jeff

    # 3 ALWAYS RIDE WITH TRAFFIC

    I absolutely hate when i see people riding the wrong way (ie: riding eastbound in the westbound bike lane). That is the dumbest thing anyone can do. Atleast if you are riding with traffic the driver looks up from their phone/tablet/laptop and sees you ahead of time and is prewarned and will take proper action. If you are riding against traffic, the first time the driver looks up from their distraction might be the 1st time they notice you, freak out & swerve into you, most likely killing you.
    I must say though, that those that are doing this are not ‘cyclists’, they are people who cant obtain a license (illegal immigrants, those busted for a DUI, etc). This is a fairly new phenom (about a year and a half) that I’ve noticed more and more people doing this. I live in South Florida

  • rrrrmac1

    These types of attitudes are exactly what causes road rage against cyclists. If you are in the center of the lane and causing traffic in a 40 to follow your duffer pace at 17 you are doing nothing for the relationship of sharing the road (other than pissing people off). The same would occur if you were dong so in your car (go out and try it today)… Ride Right PERIOD! Impeding the flow of traffic is actually illegal in most states. The cyclist can be sited, as a courtesy I will pull over or wave cars by when it is safe to do so. I usually get a quick honk of thanks and a wave of something other than a middle finger!!!!!! Promoting a USE the Whole road attitude is not only an elitist jack ass move, it is going to get people hurt and increase the likelihood of conflicts during a ride. Don’t be surprised when cyclist are banned from all roads that they cannot maintain the speed limit in your area when legislators are contacted with Video from angry motorists contacting them!

  • Keith Johnson

    #5 It’s your lane- take it.
    Vehicles don’t own the road, lack of knowledge of the laws is no excuse for drivers bullying and yelling at bicyclists, they have full use of the road unless it is a limited access road such as an Interstate. If the lane is not wide enough for a bike and car side by side and the 3′ clearance the law requires a car to pass a cyclist then they should take the full lane, it is common sense and safer. Even if a bike is as far to the right as they can get a vehicle still, by law, pass 3′ or more away from the cyclists, if not then they should not pass until they can. It is not irresponsible, illogical or rude to do what the law requires a bicyclist to do while using the road and if there is war between motorists and cyclists the motorists will lose as the law is on the side of the cyclists. Unless a motorist wants to get arrested for assault or battery or causing someone to die they better learn realize that cyclists are allowed on the road and will be on the road. If people don’t want bikes on the road then work to get the laws changed. This is good motoring etiquette.