Stay one step ahead of the traffic by being aware of the behaviour of other road users.
If we want to ride our bicycles on the roads, sharing that resource is an unavoidable reality. Who we ride with, the routes we choose, and the timing of our rides can all have an impact on our safety, but traffic cannot always be avoided. Because our fellow road users are often distracted, impatient and not particularly conscious of safety, we have to be extra-aware of our surroundings and ready to react to the behaviour of drivers and passengers as well as pedestrians.
At cycling events, we rely on motorcycle-mounted safety officials to keep us safe. As volunteers, these men in visibility vests have spent many hours observing the behaviour of cyclists, and as motorcycle commuters they also have first-hand experience of the traffic issues that are uniquely dangerous to two-wheeled traffic. We asked Johan du Plessis, Head Traffic Marshall with the Road Rangers to share some of his wisdom:
1) Never let your guard down and assume that a motorist is aware of your presence. You almost need to assume they have not seen you, and expect the unexpected.
2) Be observant of the body language of motorists. What they are doing, apart from driving allows you to predict that unexpected move. Cell phones, music, passengers, makeup and coffee cups all affect their behaviour.
3) The road shoulder or a painted island on the left hand side of an intersection can become a taxi loading and unloading area. Keep a look out for vehicles and disembarking passengers cutting in front of you from the right.
4) When lane splitting between vehicles, be on the lookout for pedestrians crossing between the vehicles when stationary at a traffic light. Slow down, prepare for emergency braking. Also be on the lookout for motorcyclists moving between the lanes in stationary traffic if you are weaving between the cars.
6) Ideally, you should leave space for the width of a car door when passing parked vehicles, but that is not always possible. Look out for people planning to disembark. Passengers often exit vehicles at intersections, so watch out for opening car doors and pedestrians weaving between the cars.
7) Motorists will almost always continue over an amber traffic light. Rather stop and be alive than become a Bushman painting on the tar surface. Seek eye-contact with that motorist waiting to turn right across your path at an intersection. This way you are sure s/he has seen you.
8) Motorists tend to underestimate the speed of cyclists. Watch out for those inching forward at traffic lights and stop signs. Even if you have right of way they might turn in front of you.
9) Become familiar with what the traffic usually sounds like. If you are paying attention, abnormalities can almost always be heard before they are seen, and that gives you the edge.
10) An impatient driver will stand out in traffic. It will be the one flashing, hooting and swerving from one lane to the other without making much progress. Stay well clear of them.
11) Ride with a mission, and be committed to your route. Motorists will take advantage of any hesitation. Rather pull off the road and plot the path ahead before you proceed if there is an accident scene or something else that requires a change of plan.
12) Be careful when you stop at a traffic light or a busy pedestrian intersection. Cyclists are easy targets for criminals, and you need to ensure you do not become a victim of snatchers. Consider lane splitting and stopping between two vehicles in these circumstances.