Controversial Commute Tips 8 – Educate

As Tony Blair (remember him?) announced his three priorites for his government were “Education, Education, Education”, so I offer this as an important policy for cyclists too.

Education happens both on and off the bike, and is as much about “me” learning, as others learning.

In-Flight Education

On the bike I usome of the techniques to those described in my previous post to demonstrate to people that cyclists need room.  My hope is that sometimes, communicating with a driver with some eye contact or road positioning will not just say “I’m here”, but will say, “Look out for me next time too!”

Waving to say thanks to those that do leave plenty of room, or hold back rather than make a dangerous overtaking manoevure, is also good.  We should acknowledge and reinforce good driving behaviour as well as inform about what’s bad.

Dealing with Near Misses

I’m very much against road rage, so kicking or hitting cars (and buses and vans) is noted as being both dangerous and stupid.  It’s also unhelpful.

I tend to use (polite!) gestures and stern looks to make sure people know that they need to leave more room next time. I don’t know if anyone’s ever understood my “glare, frown and nearly-pinched thumb and forefinger” gesture to be the intended message of “that gap was too small”, but trying can’t be a bad thing…can it?

[Perhaps someone out there has a dictionary of standard cycling gestures?  Perhaps someone should make one?]

I’ve never given anyone a talking to about their driving, but if I did so it would be informative rather than angry.  Compare:

“Sorry mate, but you overtook a bit close there, and it was pretty dangerous for me.  Can you leave cyclists a bit more room in future please?”

with (remember this is a family blog now…):

“You stupid idiot! What the heck do you think you were doing? I had no space and you nearly hit me!  Take some driving lessons or something!!!”

I suppose the closest I came was writing an email to the Library service after nearly being hit by the mobile library.  The response to my polite email was, as hoped, apologetic and informed, rather than confrontational.  Hopefully something was learned!

In the Car

Being in a car is a good place to learn and to teach about cycle safety too.  A close relative of mine, who I love my to bits, has a 4×4, and I’ve had to tell him more than once, when a passenger in his big car, that he passed a cyclist WAY to close for comfort.  He doesn’t realise, yet, how dangerous it is.  I ensure that he’s learning that bikes need as much space as cars.

My tip would be to try and do the following when driving or being driven:

  • Point out cyclists to others and make sure that you/they give room.
  • Note stupid/dangerous cycling behaviour and remember not to do those things when you’re on two wheels.
  • Set the standard – do the things that you would have drivers do, and tell your passengers why you’re doing them.

Sharing Experiences

Again…communicate what’s good, and what’s bad.  Writing a blog is a bit extreme, but yes, part of my writing about cycling is to try to communicate with both cyclists and drivers about what it’s like to be a cyclist on the roads of Swindon.

But how about talking with friends, family, colleagues, about your experiences?  If I have a close shave, I’ll quite often chat about it in the office and make sure people know that overtaking and then turning left or overtaking at a junction or whatever is dangerous for the cyclist.

Those incidents can serve as practical examples for others.

Talk about the good stuff too…”everyone gave me lots of room on the way in today, it made my ride so much safer”.

Perhaps talking about your cycling, telling your stories from two wheels and sharing your experiences will make the roads a little bit safer.  Tony Blair’s theme was “Thiiiiings can only get betteeeeerrrrrr”.  Let’s hope they do!