Note: This was written a couple years ago after a verrrry long bike ride I took part in.
After cycling for over 4100 miles across 2 countries you tend to notice a lot of driving habits, from very good to very bad and everywhere in between. I'd like to spend some time now to discuss some of the behaviors I've noticed along the way that all motorists should be aware of so that drivers and cyclists can coexist peacefully.
Disclaimer 1: This is not a blanket condemnation of all drivers. I have a car too, and now that I live in Houston I drive more than I bike. But the truth of the matter is, some people just have no clue how to properly behave around cyclists, whether out of God-honest ignorance or just total assholery. Maybe there is something you just never realized is a bad behavior, or maybe you have a friend or coworker who does do some of the following actions. Knowledge is power; share the knowledge.
Disclaimer 2: Just as not all drivers are unfriendly towards cyclists, I know that not all cyclists behave responsibly on a bike. I've seen my share of cyclists that I just want to smack around for doing such stupid things. But for the purposes of this entry, when I refer to cyclists I refer to the responsible, law-abiding cyclists who just want to share the road safely.
So without further ado, here are my guidelines for being kind to cyclists while driving:
1. SHARE THE ROAD!!!
According to the laws in every place I've lived, bicycles are vehicles and should be treated as such. Don't tell us to get off the road, beacuase as long as it's safe and there are no signs specifically saying no bikes, we have just as much right to be there as a car does, and we do not have to be on the shoulder either (see Item 2 for the major reason cyclists stay out of shoulders). This also includes not driving as close to us as possible, not driving behind us on the shoulder to "teach us a lesson" and definitely not veering into us from the opposite side of traffic because we're interupting your drunken commute home in the morning.
2. Don't throw anything out your window. EVER.
In the words of my friend Amy: "There is a special place in hell for people who throw [anything] out their window." Throwing trash at cyclists as you drive by is unforgiveable. Seriously, what are you thinking? At best you get flipped the bird by a now irate cyclists or get a water bottle chunked at your rear window. At worst you can cause a serious crash. Why would you ever do something like that? But this rule doesn't just apply when there are cyclists around. Throwing trash out of your car at any time creates a lot of debris that often times cyclists can not ride through. This means we have to move from the shoulder and into traffic. Trust me, cyclists don't want to have to move into 50+ mph traffic any more than you would want to slow down because we're in your lane so do your part to ensure that we have a safe place to ride.
3. Give us room.
If you've ever riden a motorcycle you know that you have to aware of drafts and gusts from other vehicles... well, it's even worse for bicycles. I've been literally blown off the road before by passing cars. If there is strong wind or inclement weather, give us more room. If you don't trust a cyclist's riding abilities or your own ability to drive close to a cyclist, give us more room. If you are on a narrow road with no shoulder and you can't share the lane with the cyclist then SLOW DOWN and wait until it is safe to MOVE TO THE OTHER LANE and go on your merry way. A person's life is worth more than the extra 20 seconds this will add to your commute.
4. Honking etiquette
This one's kind of a mixed bag. Some honks are generally friendly, some are just a warning that a car is approaching, some are from total douchebags just trying to be all douchey. Some cyclists can appreciate a friendly honk every now and then and really, as long as you have the best of intentions it's up to personal preference if you want to send an encouraging honk as you pass by a cyclist. Personally, I think that all honks are dangerous honks and would be a much happier cyclist if no one ever honked at me again, but that's just me. We can hear cars coming, so we don't need a warning. Additionally, honking sometimes scares the crap out of cyclists because we're not expecting it. Remember honks are a lot louder outside of a car than inside one. If you do insist on (friendly) honking though, try to wait til after you pass the cyclist and throw a little wave out the window so we know it's friendly and we don't flick you off in return, and NEVER honk as you pull even with a cyclist.
5. Don't be a asshole.
This is your only warning mister or miss truck driver who likes to spew out that lovely cloud of black smoke right as you pass by a cyclist, I'm taking down liscense plates and you'll be receiving my asthma bills in the mail shortly.
P.S. Stop being a asshole.
I've hit over 45mph on my bike before.I have friends who have gotten warnings about speeding when they're cycling around town. Just this weekend I was riding with a guy who was doing 20+ mph on a single speed. Basically, some cyclists are hella fast. What does this have to do with making turns? Chances are you are misjudging the speed of the cyclist who is coming up on the road you want to turn down. So what do you do? Slow the fuck down and let us pass the road before you make your turn. This is the single biggest type of car-bicycle accidents so seriously, pay attention to this one. Do I need to repeat myself about a cyclist's life being worth more than your time?
There you have it. There is a lot more ground I could cover but with these few simple rules and guidelines you are well on your way to having a symbiotic relationship with cyclists.
And if you are still of the type that believes that all cyclist just need to get a car and get the hell out of your way, remember this: In a collision between a bicycle and a car, no matter who is at fault, the bicycle will ALWAYS lose. Do you really want someone's death or maiming on your conscious just because someone pissed you off?