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Driving question re. passing cyclists on the road

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#1 Scarlett O

Posted 17 January 2013 - 07:19 PM

Hi - I'm just getting back into driving, after a very long break (10+ years). The break was mainly due to travelling/moving all the time with work, and then putting off getting back into driving due to nervousness. I think I'm doing pretty well (as do others who have seen me), even though I'm still a bit nervous. Anyway, there is one thing I'm a little bit unsure about, which is this:

When I'm driving in the left lane and there are cyclists there in front of me - definitely in my lane (not a separate bike lane), but on the far left near the curb. In the past I've seen other drivers in the same lane pass the cyclists fairly comfortably, without needing to go out of the lane. Looked like they had enough space between them and the cyclists. But when I'm about to pass the cyclists, I always feel like I don't have enough space to pass them without hitting them, and I get extremely nervous! We have a medium size 4WD, so a bit wider than other cars maybe. And being on the right/driver's side, I can't see the left side of my car, to work out how close it is to the cyclists.

Tonight I was at the front (at the lights), when the bikes joined the road I was on, and went in front of me on the left side of my lane. There were cars next to me in the right lane, so I couldn't change lanes, and as usual, I felt like I didn't have enough space to pass the bikes. So I slowed right down and drove behind them - this was just for a very short distance, as a bicycle lane opened up and they moved into that - thank god! I don't know what would have happened if the bike lane wasn't there!

When I told DH about it though, he said I should not have slowed down, as it would annoy the drivers behind me, I should have just passed the cyclists straight away. I said I felt very uncomfortable doing that, as it didn't seem like I had enough room. (Probably I did, but I just wasn't sure) and he just kind of shrugged and rolled his eyes and didn't want to talk about it anymore!

Just wondering what others would do in this situation? Thanks. original.gif

#2 The Old Feral

Posted 17 January 2013 - 07:25 PM

By law (in Victoria at least) you need to give the cyclist a metre's space when passing.

But seriously, OP, you shouldn't be on the road if you can't figure out where the other side of the car is. Sounds like you need more practice on quiet streets, with someone in the passenger seat.

#3 globalgirl

Posted 17 January 2013 - 07:25 PM

I thought that cyclists have as much right to that lane as any car does, so treat them like a car (or indeed, any other vehicle).  If it's clear and you can pass them allowing adequate space (so if you need to veer into the lane next to you, only do so if it's clear).  But otherwise, you just have to go slow behind them until it's safe to pass.

#4 Riotproof

Posted 17 January 2013 - 07:26 PM

You did exactly the right thing.

#5 FizzlingFireboxes

Posted 17 January 2013 - 07:26 PM

If a bike is in front of me in the lane, I would try to change lanes to go around them, even if I wasn't fully in the other lane. Of course I would need a break in traffic in the right hand lane to do this.

I don't think I would pass a cyclist while staying in the lane, they would be pretty close.

I think you did the right thing.

#6 tle

Posted 17 January 2013 - 07:27 PM

I think you definately need more practice with an experienced driver in the car with you (like a learner driver does to offer guidance). If you don't know how much space you have on your left hand side (or anywhere around your car for that matter) I'd be a bit concerned about you driving at all unsupervised.

ETA:  Sorry, I didn't answer your question. I always try to overtake if it is safe to do so. Of course, to know whether or not it is safe you need to know exactly where the left hand side of your car is.

Edited by tle, 17 January 2013 - 07:30 PM.

#7 Feral-as-Meggs

Posted 17 January 2013 - 07:28 PM

As a cyclist and a driver, yes you do need to slow down until you can pass them safely.   1 metre is a good distance.

#8 BronR

Posted 17 January 2013 - 07:29 PM

What you are supposed to do is indicate and get into the right hand lane before passing. When bikes are on the road you treat them as another vehicle. You wouldn't pass a motorbike by staying in the same lane and kind of squeezing by. I know lots of drivers break this law some more safely than others.

Sometimes yes you can get stuck behind bikes and then it gets hard to pass as you are then going bike speed so it can be hard to get into the other lane.

But you obeyed the law and did the right thing. Other cars behind can either go slow too or choose to pass in the right lane.

#9 flopsy

Posted 17 January 2013 - 07:34 PM

When a bicycle is in your lane it should be treated like any other vehicle and you should only pass them if you can safely overtake them. Sometimes there isn't enough room to overtake and you have to do exactly what you did which is slow down and wait until it is safe to go around/switch lanes.

Your DH is wrong to say you should just overtake them straight away, they have the same rights to be in the lane as your car in that situation.

#10 (feral)epg

Posted 17 January 2013 - 07:41 PM

Please don't try to 'squeeze' past cyclists as your DH suggests - if it doesn't feel safe, it probably isn't.

#11 SuboptimallyPooks

Posted 17 January 2013 - 07:42 PM

In a situation where I couldn't veer into the next lane when it is really quiet, or overtake, I would have done what you did OP. And I have done it too.

#12 Bluestocking

Posted 17 January 2013 - 07:49 PM

Am I the only one who hates it when bike riders do this? In situations where there is a foot path right there with no pedestrians. I just think it makes the roads dangerous for drivers. I would have done the same as the OP whilst feeling nervous about impatient drivers behind me.

I know bike riders are allowed on the roads, it just makes me nervous should they fall over while I'm overtaking them or something...

#13 bikingbubs

Posted 17 January 2013 - 07:53 PM

It is illegal to ride on the footpath unless you are under 12 or have a medical certificate stating you can.

#14 lynneyours

Posted 17 January 2013 - 07:54 PM

Excentrique - the cyclist is a vehicle and therefore belongs on the road. I *think* it is illegal to ride on the footpath unless you have an under-12 with you.

As an ex-cyclist, who has been hit by cars a few times that weren't looking, I am wary of bikes and give them a wide berth.  
My step-brother was killed hit-and-run by a car, so I am even more wary now.  

I agree with others, I think perhaps you should have a few driving lessons from an instructor in your own car, and maybe do a defensive driving course to build your confidence.

#15 TheWanderer

Posted 17 January 2013 - 07:59 PM

Simple...  Drive up really fast behind them, as you approach blast your horn.  Hope they move over as you pass them.

Sorry that was from a taxi ride from a recent trip to China.

Back here it I guess it's a bit different.  Wait behind them until you have a legal and safe way to pass them.  ie when the lane gets wider or merge into another lane.  If neither of these opportunities present then you have to suck it up and wait.

#16 Fright bat

Posted 17 January 2013 - 08:03 PM

QUOTE (Excentrique @ 17/01/2013, 08:49 PM) <{POST_SNAPBACK}>
Am I the only one who hates it when bike riders do this? In situations where there is a foot path right there with no pedestrians. I just think it makes the roads dangerous for drivers. I would have done the same as the OP whilst feeling nervous about impatient drivers behind me.

I know bike riders are allowed on the roads, it just makes me nervous should they fall over while I'm overtaking them or something...

QUOTE (bikingbubs @ 17/01/2013, 08:53 PM) <{POST_SNAPBACK}>
It is illegal to ride on the footpath unless you are under 12 or have a medical certificate stating you can.

Question answered. The cyclist has no choice.

The other point to make is that cyclists make their way to the front of the traffic at the lights, not to annoy you, but because it is much safer there where they are at the front and more visible, rather than lost in a sea of cars. (And as a side note, the air up there is also far more pleasant).

As a cyclist, my pet peeve is not road users who don't treat cycles like real traffic. It is cyclists who believe themselves above the road rules and don't behave like real traffic. The cycling fraternity cannot both expect cars to treat them like real traffic, but not behave according to the road rules themselves.

The final point I'll make is that road rules aside - please keep in mind that it is a cyclist body and brain that suffer when a driver chooses to 'enforce' the correct rules and things go wrong. You might get a dint in your car, but they might never walk again, or suffer a life altering head injury. I know lots of cyclists do the wrong thing.... but is breaking a road rule deserving of getting run over?

So regardless of what the rules might be, and who is in the right or the wrong, if you see a cyclist, please slow down and be careful  biggrin.gif

#17 Soontobegran

Posted 17 January 2013 - 08:06 PM

A bike is a vehicle just like a car according to the law, they are entitled to take up the entire lane and go at whatever speed they want to. As the car driver you have to wait until there is a chance and overtake like you would if it was another car and not a bike.

It can be extremely frustrating but you must not be put off by the traffic behind you beeping you and pressuring you to go.

I recently drove up a windy road to a tourist spot in the Dandenongs, it is double lines almost the entire way. I was behind a group of cyclists riding two abreast and my normal 20 minute drive took me 45 minutes as there was no safe place to pass that wouldn't take me over the double lines.
Could not do a thing about it, it is what it is.

#18 namie

Posted 17 January 2013 - 08:31 PM

I do exactly what you did. If safe to do so I also prefer to vere into the lane next to me (on my right) to give a cyclist more space even if they're in a bike lane. It just feels right to me to do so.

If they're in a bike lane and I can't vere in to another lane, I slow down as I pass them. If they're in my lane I slow down to follow them until I can overtake safely.

I don't give a toss about the drivers behind me and have been known to give the one finger salute if beeped while 'stuck' behind a cyclist. If I don't feel it's safe for me to pass then I won't. The people behind me can take a deep breath and deal with it.

But I agree with PPs that you really do need some driving sessions either with a trainer or with a fully-licenced driver to help you realise the parameters of your car. It really annoys me when people don't seem to have an understanding of the size of their car no matter how big or small it is.

When we moved in to our new house the garage seemed kind of small and I wasn't sure how far to go in. With the door up there was nothing to use to determine if I was far enough in or not.  DP got out and let me know when I had clearance at the back and I now have a point of reference on the brick work where I line up my side mirror and know that I have enough clearance at the back for the garage door to close but still have access to the boot as well as space to walk in the front as well.

For general driving I know exactly where the bonnet and boot end and the clearance for the exterior of the passenger side.

#19 Scarlett O

Posted 17 January 2013 - 08:53 PM

Thanks for your replies. I am mainly driving on quiet streets in my suburb. Today I went to the next suburb, so it was slightly busier than usual. Not in the city or on a highway though. I can of course see the left side of my car. I just don't think it's really obvious how close that side is to a bike in the same lane. I guess it will become more obvious with more practice. I have no issues with the cars in the other lanes, as they have their lane and i have mine. I see other cars squeezing past cyclists all the time, but it just doesn't feel right to me. Glad to hear that others here feel the same. Your replies have been very helpful.

#20 adandtia

Posted 17 January 2013 - 08:57 PM

As a cyclist who occasionally rides on the roads (just building up confidence and experience on the road) I'm ver relieved to read most of the replies on this thread.

OP you did the right thing. Just remember, you could kill a cyclist. So not worth it.

#21 aidensmum

Posted 17 January 2013 - 09:09 PM

Maybe get your ptr to take you for a drive in your car and see how much of the lane your car takes up. Best to wait and let them get out of the way. Especially at lights as most bikes will get up the front as they will be quicker off the mark than cars and will move to the left once they are clear of the intersection.

Be more wary around cyclists wearing Lycra. Round town they are often faster than cars and my DH is regularly cut off on his bike cos a car overtakes thinking bikes are slow, then they turn left and force him to turn left with them to avoid running into the side of the car. Still happens to me and I'm super slow.

#22 Bob-the-skull

Posted 17 January 2013 - 09:14 PM

i do pretty much the same as you OP and i have been driving pretty much most days for the last 6 years.

I don't like to "guess" that i am going to have enough room to get past the cyclist especially if for any reason they have to move further out in the lane, i prefer to be able to go around them by using the next lane (if safe).

whilst i know my car can fit past a cyclist on most roads, some roads are different sizes and some cyclists aren't as comfortable to have a car come that close to them and may be startled!

#23 starfire

Posted 17 January 2013 - 09:24 PM

OP, I would have done the same as you.

I usually change lanes when it is safe to do so and pass them and then change back into my lane but otherwise I usually slow down if there is incoming traffic or another car beside me until it is safe to pass safely.

Personally, I'd rather not make the fatal mistake of guessing the safe distance between the bike rider and my car. I shudder when I see cars squeezing past bike riders in traffic without slowing down, anything can happen!

Also take up some extra driving lessons with a professional or practise driving when it is quiet to build up your confidence. And maybe look into defensive driving lessons as well - it is great and definitely comes in handy at times!

#24 Liadan

Posted 17 January 2013 - 09:33 PM

You did the right thing, and exactly as I would have done.

cyclist are pretty much completely unprotected, it is better to be 100% sure, than to risk hitting one.

#25 Carabosse

Posted 17 January 2013 - 10:56 PM

When I told DH about it though, he said I should not have slowed down,  as it would annoy the drivers behind me, I should have just passed the  cyclists straight away.

Gosh no! The bike is another vehicle on the road in this instance. It can also depend on the width of the lane. Many city 2 lane streets would not give you enough space to pass a bike safely if there is also traffic in the 2nd lane. You just have to go slow until you can either use the other lane or the cyclist moves! You totally did the right thing.

I always feel slightly uneasy because I can never be sure what the cyclist is going to do. They don't always follow the rules so I like to give them plenty of space wink.gif

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