An Open Letter to Road Users…

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There are so many things that can affect a journey (and I mean that in the literal sense, not the “I’m, like, on this emotional journey…” sense). Especially on the daily commute – it can be buses dropping & picking up passengers, cars exiting the road and others pulling out into traffic. It can be someone parking on the roadside, a learner driver, a tractor, a car with a trailer, tourists rubber-necking the scenery, an accident…

The list goes on.

And while we normally accept these inconveniences (albeit reluctantly), there’s something about the sight of a cyclist on the road that can make many motorists see red.

I’ve encountered it so often – I live in Galway city, and try to commute to work on my bike regularly. I also cycle for recreation. And no matter where I go, and how heavy the traffic, I encounter dangerous driver behaviour towards cyclists on every journey.

Not most…

Every journey.

That being said, it can range from minor annoyances to major “I nearly just bodyslammed the side of that car”, but it happens every time. And it’s scary.

On a daily basis, I also see a lot of poor cyclist behaviour that is just as scary.

I see cyclists with no visibility gear on, cyclists zipping on the wrong side of the road headfirst into oncoming traffic, cyclists dangerously breaking traffic lights at busy junctions, cyclists wearing headphones…

So here are my words of advice, as both a motorist and a cyclist:

MOTORISTS! As a cyclist, I can’t control how you feel when you pass a cyclist on the road. Whether you feel angry, impatient, nervous, enraged…
But the actions you take based on those emotions can directly affect both our safety.
CYCLISTS! As a motorist, I can’t control how you feel when you get on your bike and go out on the road. Whether you feel rebellious, invincible, nonchalant…
But the actions you take based on those emotions can directly impact our safety.

We all should take responsibility for our actions on the road.

  • Motorists, give due care to cyclists and don’t overtake dangerously.
  • Cyclists, make yourself visible and don’t cycle dangerously.

Here are my top tips for staying safe on the roads – and remember, as frustrating as it might be, all cyclists are very vulnerable on the road so make every effort to make yourself visible, and take out those bloody headphones!

Motorists:

  1. Always give cyclists adequate room on the road. Be patient, and remember that you’re going to encounter a lot on your journey that can slow you down. Don’t take the chance by passing a cyclist too closely.
  2. Don’t make decisions based on your frustration or annoyance.
  3. Be considerate – remember, you’re not the only person entitled to use the road.
  4. Indicate your intentions.
  5. Be aware of the rules of the road in relation to motorists.
  6. If a cyclist isn’t using a bicycle lane, don’t rage past them to try and make a point – there are many reasons why a cyclists might not use a cycle lane (glass on the lane, potholes or dangerous/uneven surface, untreated ice…). It is highly unlikely that they are not using it just to annoy you.

Cyclists:

  1. Wear high-visibility clothing, day or night and make sure your lights are working
  2. Be aware of your surroundings and what could be a potential risk.
  3. Please, please, please don’t wear headphones when you’re cycling – your hearing is as important as your vision on the bike – for you, other cyclists/pedestrians and motorists.
  4. Be aware of the rules of the road in relation to cyclists.
  5. Don’t “act like a car”. You’re not a car, you’re a vulnerable human on a flimsy 2-wheeled self-propelled apparatus that was invented in the early 1800’s. Always be aware of that and act accordingly.

Stay safe on the road everyone – and remember, we’re all just trying to get to where we want to go safely, and with minimal swearing. So let’s take care of each other.

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