COLUMN: Know the rules and share the road

Cyclists and drivers need to read the rules to share the road and avoid conflict

Let’s face it, cars and bikes don’t mix.

It’s why a lot of cities have bike lanes. Nanaimo has bike trails, but comes up short on bike/car road sharing, which leads to spats between riders and drivers from time to time.

Ideally, getting drivers and riders to get along is just a matter of following basic road rules and a little common sense.

Reality is another matter and – sorry cyclists, you’re not going to like this – cyclists in my experience are frequently at fault.

I have my moments when I drive and ride stupidly, but I ride with an attitude that it’s not a matter of if, but when I or one of the drivers around me will do something stupid. I try to be responsible enough for my actions to keep myself and everybody else safe just like when I’m driving, but I’ve seen my share of cyclists get upset, rude and even downright belligerent with drivers when close calls occur.

Mistakes happen. Get over it.

Neither the universe or the rules of the road give cyclists special protections and privileges and cyclists with self-righteous attitudes who choose to rub elbows with heavy machinery don’t foster good relations with motorists by throwing tantrums when things go sideways.

I ride with the belief that most drivers actually aren’t out to try and kill me. It helps.

I had a cyclist holler obscenities at me once when I made a right turn in front of him, even though he was scooting along in the blind spot on the right side of my car, between the traveling lane on the and a row of parked cars, any one of which could have opened a door in his path.

He put himself in a really dangerous position – a classically stupid manoeuvre I found myself performing recently.

A truck passed me, turned right at an intersection in front of me and, sure enough, I let out a, “What the @#$!?”

The driver slowed and yelled his apology, but according to the road rules, I was at fault, not the guy driving the pickup.

I waved, smiled – sheepishly – and rode off thinking, that happened because neither of us were sure of what road rules applied in that case.

Drivers, on the other hand, need to learn where their vehicles are. A lot of cars you drive seem like they’re closer to objects around them than they really are.

As a result, a lot of drivers pass in the oncoming lane to get around me. It’s unnecessary and often dangerous.

If I’m riding the road shoulder on the right side of the line (assuming the road has a paved shoulder) and a car passes, we won’t hit each other as long as we both stay on our sides of the line.

On narrow, rural roads with soft gravel shoulders I often ride a bike with wider tires that allow me to ride in the gravel so cars can pass. If I’m riding a skinny-tire bike designed for pavement, I plan a different route.

I know this all sounds like a sermon, but cycling will get more dangerous with fall weather, especially on dark, wet nights when road glare blinds drivers to cyclists in spite of reflective clothing, lights and reflectors.

Also, the way things seem to be going, I’ll predict there is going to be a lot more bicycles on the road in coming years and it’s going to get tougher, not easier, to stay safe as the roads become more congested.

Anyone who cycles and has wound up having a close call or a crash because they didn’t know what the rules are can look them up by visiting the BikeSense website at www.bikesense.bc.ca.

Drivers should have a look at those too, so we’re all working from the same script when we’re out on the road.