Ten things motorists need to know about cyclists

'It's a two way street'

Improving cyclist safety isn't rocket science, it's simply about everyone sharing the road and following the rules, explains Charlie Pickering for Transport for NSW and the Amy Gillett Foundation.

It's not rocket science to suggest ignorance is the primary foundation for the loggerheads at which cyclists and motorists frequently find themselves.

As a cyclist I may be a little biased; but like most regular riders I'm also a car driver, and do both regularly enough to see both sides of what at times is a heated turf war over our roads.

On the other hand, it's palpably obvious from continuous conjecture on websites and forums that many drivers have no idea what it's like to be a cyclist. The vulnerability when a car passes mere centimetres from your shoulder, the sheer terror when a car door is unthinkingly flung open in front of them.

In fact, there seem to be a number of things non-bike-riding car drivers might not actually understand about their fellow pedal-pushing road users.

Here are 10 things that cyclists desperately want car drivers to understand.

1) Bikes can move a lot faster than you realise – upwards of 40 km/h on the flat, and more on a decent downhill. Please consider this before pulling into an intersection in front of a bike, emerging from a parking spot, or doing a U-turn on a busy road.

2) Because of the wind noise buffeting our head, cyclists can't always hear you coming up behind us. Assume we don't know you're there, and give us a wide berth.

3) If cyclists ride in the middle of the lane it's not to prove a point or be annoying. It's because if anyone opens their car door without checking first, we're going to get very badly hurt.

4) Cyclists don't wear Lycra because we think we look sexy in skin tight clothing; it's because we want to be comfortable and move easily on the bike.

5) Not all cyclists are hipsters, or Cadel Evans wannabes. Many are normal (enough) people on their way to work, choosing to ride because it makes sense when the roads are choked with cars.

6) Cyclists are people - just like you - with partners and children who want to see them get home safely. Some even drive cars occasionally. Keep that in mind next time you are caught behind one. A few seconds lost won't kill you, but trying to get past might kill them.

7) Yes, a cyclist may react angrily if a motorist cuts them off or drives too close. It's not because we are arrogant or feel entitled, but because any contact is not just a trip to the panel beaters; it's potentially a matter of life and death.

8) Bikes go slowly up hills. It's not a deliberate ploy to annoy drivers, we're going pretty much as fast as we can most of the time. Please, be patient and pass only when it's safe.

9) Turning right on a busy multi-lane road is tricky on a bike. To get an idea of what it feels like, imagine yourself trying to get across two lanes of semi-trailers doing 100km/h, starting from a parking spot with the handbrake stuck on in a Subaru Sherpa that isn't running too well and has no mirrors. It ain't pretty.

10) Yes, we do have a right to use the roads. The bicycle was invented long before the motor car (in 1817, for those playing at home) and will continue to exist long after the motor car is consigned to the junkyard of history.

What other misunderstandings exist between cyclists and other road users? Let us know in the comments section.