Share the road: 3 ways to give cyclists a brake

Sharing the road with cyclists involves important tactics you must use for everyone's safety.

As the driver of a car, you have a distinct advantage over a cyclist. The sheer size and bulk of your vehicle is the main factor. Speed is a close second.

You may be annoyed when a cyclist slows down your commute or makes it more difficult for you to reach your destination. But remember that bicycle riders reduce the number of vehicles on the road. This eases congestion, which helps everyone. Not to mention the environmental advantage of bicycles.

For these reasons we encourage you to follow three practices as you share the road with cyclists.

Always be aware

Cyclists can appear in places where vehicles cannot. Always remain vigilant about looking around you before making any sudden moves or lane changes.

One particularly devastating event is when a car door is opened into the path of an approaching cyclist. The suddenness of the door opening often doesn't give the cyclist enough time to stop or swerve. This can result in serious injuries for the cyclist.

Always check your mirror and over your shoulder before you open your car door.

Another error is failing to look both ways before turning. This can be dangerous even when there are no cyclists. But a person on a bike can be much harder to spot than an oncoming car. And not all cyclists ride on the right side of the road as is appropriate.

Give cyclists plenty of room

Although a cyclist visually takes up less room than a car, he or she actually needs more room than it appears. Give them plenty of clearance when you pass them. A good rule of thumb is to provide with as much room as you would another car when passing.

You never know when a cyclist will have to swerve to avoid a slick spot in the road or a pothole. Provide plenty of warning and signal should you need to make a turn in front of someone on a bike.

Don't follow too closely

Tailgating another car could result in a rear-end collision. The same is true when you drive behind a cyclist. If the cyclist takes a sudden fall or needs to stop quickly, you might not have time to react.

Always make sure you give a cyclist the same amount of space when following as you would another car. The life of the cyclist might depend on your patience and caution.

It is possible for motorists and bicyclists to share the road peacefully and respectfully. All you need to do is to treat the cyclist in much the same way as you would another motorist.