Cycling in Scottish cities – part two

In the first part of this article we dealt with the downside to cycling in Scottish cities, and ways to improve these. In the second and final part of this article we will discuss how to deal with arguments between drivers and cyclists, as well as tips for safer cycling so as to avoid serious bike accidents.

When an argument between a driver and a cyclist escalates to the driver chasing and intentionally swerving to hit the cyclist, you know there’s a serious problem.

The relationship between drivers and cyclists has become unsettling. At its worst, tension between them sparks conflict. And that can cause serious road traffic accidents especially in the built up areas of all major Scottish cities.

While incidents between road users don’t all end like this, drivers and cyclists need to be careful, as heated debates can quickly spiral out of control.

How can arguments be prevented?

There are no hard and fast rules to preventing these roadside arguments, but it’s worthwhile taking a minute to gather your thoughts instead of embarking on a full-scale row. While your first instinct may be to lose control, this is not the solution.

Whether you’re a driver or a cyclist there are ways to avoid sparking a potentially fatal row. Mainly by following these tips:

  1. Follow the rules of the road
    All road users must follow the rules of the road by law. This can help to prevent any upsetting run-ins. If designated cycle lanes are available – use them.
  2. Keep your eyes open
    Make eye contact with each other – you’ll be amazed how many drivers slow down or are more aware of cyclists.
  3. Be careful when moving between lanes
    Drivers should be wary of cyclists, and vice versa. Be aware of the driver’s blind spot when passing lorries and buses. It’s often a safer bet to be patient and hang back. Remember if you can’t see them in their mirror, they can’t see you.
  4. Be aware
    Pay close attention to what’s going on around you. Note: This means watching out for pedestrians as well as drivers and other cyclists.
  5. Anticipate their every move
    Anticipation is the most effective way to avoid a major road accident. Always assume that other road users will do something stupid and prepare yourself accordingly.
  6. Listen and learn
    Did you know that someone who is cycling can hear better than someone who is driving? So use your ears to keep you safe.
  7. Use your height to your advantage
    Your height above the road surface means you have fewer blind spots and a better view in comparison to motorists.
  8. Plan the best route
    Get a map that shows back streets and bicycle routes. This will help you plan a route that is bike friendly.
  9. Trust your instincts
    If a route seems unsafe, chances are it is. Remember it’s better to be safe than sorry.
  10. Make your intentions clear to other road users
    Always look and signal before you start, stop or turn. Looking over your shoulder while indicating with one hand can be tricky at first, so practice this first when you’re not on the road.
  11. Don’t cycle too close
    Avoid stumbling on drain covers and roadside debris by giving yourself space on the left. This also helps drivers become more aware that you are there.
  12. Protect yourself with a helmet
    Wear a helmet – it’s not the law in Scotland that cyclists must wear a helmet, but studies show that this will help reduce the risk of serious injury in a bike related road traffic accident.
  13. Be visible
    Be safe be seen! Make sure you can be seen when cycling by wearing bright or fluorescent clothing.
    But the most important point of all…
  14. Be courteous to each other (even if a driver has unintentionally nearly just killed you)
    Always signal. And always try to wave or say “thank you”.

One cyclist recounts her experience, of dealing with driver cyclist tensions: “I experience angry, irrational drivers every day on my commute. How to respond to them is always a question of judgement. Sometimes they look like they want a fight, so I ignore them and stay out of their way. Sometimes they look like they’ll respond to empathy, so I use an empathic approach. The only person whose emotions you can be certain about influencing is yourself. So to make the right call you need to be calm and not act out of anger and adrenaline”. Both cyclists and drivers should take on board this advice as a reminder of what you should do to avoid tensions.

And remember…

It’s against the law to break the rules of the road – even as a cyclist. If caught doing so you could face prosecution.
What can happen as a result of an argument?

Road traffic accidents involving cyclists are often the result of driver cyclist conflicts. If you are unlucky enough to have been involved in an accident with a driver or a cyclist, you can give Watermans a call to discuss what options are available to you.

The most important thing is to check if you or anyone else involved in the accident has been injured. If they have, call an ambulance straight away.

Regardless of whether you have any visible injuries, you should see a doctor as soon as possible after a bicycle accident. You might feel fine at the time, but neck and back complications can take a few hours, or even days, to show symptoms.

If symptoms occur after an accident, Watermans can arrange to have a specialist consultant examine you.

It’s the law

Last year police in Edinburgh city centre launched a two-week road safety initiative to promote “safer driving and cycling in Edinburgh city centre”.

One officer stated, “ignorance will be no excuse for anyone caught breaking the rules, whether on two wheels or four”.
This demonstrates the urgency of the need to improve the attitude of both drivers and cyclists alike in order to prevent accidents.

And remember, under the Road Traffic Act you (as a driver or a cyclist) and the person you have collided with are legally obliged to exchange

    • Names and addresses
    • Names and addresses of the owners of the cars
    • Registration numbers of the cars

If you are having difficulty obtaining this information contact the police who will be happy to help you.

A final word of warning

Tensions between drivers and cyclists can be fatal. Play your part by following these safety tips and by remaining as calm as possible.

While cycling in Scottish cities is a fit and cheaper method of transport, always remember that safety comes first.