There's no sugarcoating that our roads are not friendly for cyclists.
Rough patches, random hazards, unpredictable weather, pedestrians (and jaywalkers) everywhere, and erratic drivers are just some of the things our friends on two pedals have to face regularly. With practically little in the way of protection, cyclists are among the most vulnerable road users out there.
But as motorists, we can make their travel just that little bit easier by being more careful. Time and time again, we're reminded to share the road with those who have use bicycles either for commuting or for their livelihood, especially now that the coronavirus has made public transport a high risk environment for viral transmission.
Here are some tips for driving with roads that will undoubtedly be populated by more bikes in the new normal.
Mind the gap
We're always told to keep out a distance from other cars on the road. The same rings true for cyclists. Just because they're in much smaller vehicles, it doesn't mean we can squeeze them out of the way. Anything that occupies space on the road needs room to maneuver, and that includes bicycles.
As a general rule, those in motorized vehicles should give cyclists an allowance of at least one meter. Of course, more space would be ideal, but one meter is enough for them to comfortably and safely maneuver around obstacles. After all, those on bicycles have to go around the same things and obstacles we in our cars have to drive through. Think of this then as the road equivalent of social distancing.
Check your mirrors
Modern cars have thicker pillars, and these can easily hide a cyclist in plain sight. This is why you should always check your mirrors when you're performing any maneuvers. Mirrors give a driver a wider range of view to help make that judgment call whether or not you should turn that steering wheel. Look at your rear-view mirror first, then check both side mirrors.
Signal your intentions
With cars, making a turn without signaling can result in a fender bender. With cyclists, however, it can lead to injury or even death. This is why using your turn signals is very important, especially around cyclists. For those on two pedals, it's a cue if they should proceed and it gives them time to react to any changes ahead of them.
Respect the bike lane
There will be times wherein you'll have to drive right beside the designated bike lane, and even on it. If you're there, don't honk at the cyclists. It's their right of way to be there in the first place, and you're simply passing through until you get the chance to slip back in the vehicle lane. If you find yourself on the bike lane in your car, remember to keep your distance. A bicycle can stop quicker than a car.
Open doors using "the Dutch reach"
In the Netherlands and other parts of Europe, some motorists over there practice what's called “The Dutch Reach”. Instead of using their hand nearest the handle to open the door, they use the hand furthest. In the case of the driver's side, they use their right to open the door and it's the opposite for the passenger side. So why do they do this?
When you use your furthest hand to open a vehicle door, it forces you to turn your upper body to turn. Because of that, it gives you a better view of oncoming bicycles. This is a good thing to practice if you're stopped on the side of the road, regardless if it's cyclists you're looking out for or other vehicles. It's one of the safest ways to exit your vehicle.
Eyes on the road, not the phone
This is pretty self-explanatory: don't text and drive. All it takes is a half-second for an accident to happen. Hitting a car while you're distracted can result in thousands of pesos in damage, but hitting a cyclist can be potentially lethal. That text message can wait. Keep your eyes on the road and those around you.
Small things make a big difference
On paper, it doesn't sound too difficult to follow these recommendations. We're taught to be defensive drivers in the first place. But once in a while, it's good to be reminded of proper driving etiquette, even more so now with bicycles about to become the most viable alternative to public transport. The bikes they use may not have engines, but they have as much reason to be on the road as the rest of us.
Follow these simple tips and you might just see drivers and cyclists in harmony on the roads.