As a driver, it’s easy to forget that you’re not the only person on the road when you’re running late for work or for an appointment, but when a vehicle collides with a biker or pedestrian, the person outside of the vehicle always loses, and the driver is usually at fault.
Sharing the road is part of being on the road. According to 2017 census data, 9.1% of commuters in Vancouver and Victoria chose to walk or bike. With more people commuting by bike than ever, and more city streets being outfitted with bike lanes, now is the time to brush up on your road etiquette to ensure that your actions on the road result in a safe commute for everyone.
Tips for sharing the road with bikers:
Bikers use the same rules as drivers, treat them like other (more fragile) vehicles
Bikers have the same rights as any other vehicle on the road. That means they turn left from the left lane, move in the same direction as traffic, are responsible for signalling their intentions and are prohibited from riding on the sidewalk.
Don’t expect a cyclist to hear you coming from behind
Cyclists are subject to a lot more noise than you are inside of a car. Never honk directly behind a cyclist, as this can create even more danger by startling them and causing them to lose control. If you must honk, leave a generous distance between you and the biker and tap on the horn respectfully.
Be patient and leave lots of space
Because cyclists can’t always hear a car approaching, do so with caution. Treat them like any other slow-moving vehicle, passing only when you can give them a wide berth of at least three feet with a clear view of any oncoming traffic.
Remember that while traffic laws are equal, the road might not be
Another reason to leave lots of space between yourself and a biker is that cyclists often have to swerve out of their path to avoid obstacles in the road that you wouldn’t notice as a driver. Potholes, uneven pavement, sewer grates, litter and branches all pose danger to cyclists and may cause them to temporarily stray into the driving lane.
Always shoulder check before opening your door to the road
As a driver, you’re not off the hook for a biker’s safety until you’re walking on the sidewalk. Getting into the habit of checking your blind spots before opening your driver door will save you from ‘dooring’ a passing biker who has difficulty seeing you from the road.
Tips for sharing the road with pedestrians:
Respect the crosswalk
According to the Motor Vehicle Act, pedestrians have the right of way when crossing the street at a crosswalk but must yield to vehicles otherwise. With this in mind, look out for crosswalks in order to slow your vehicle in adequate time and never pass another car that’s stopped at a crosswalk, as there are likely pedestrians crossing in your blind spot.
Adjust your driving to the conditions
Pedestrians are much harder to spot at night, so taking precautions to improve your visibility could have a big impact. If you have glasses that help you see long distances, try to wear them while driving at night and always use your brights where appropriate. Ensure your windshield wipers are working properly and always fully clear snow and ice off of your windows and lights before hitting the road (see our Winter Road Tips blog for more safety tips).
Don’t drive distracted
The single easiest way to protect yourself and those you share the road with is driving distraction-free. That means pulling over for snack breaks, keeping your attention focused on the road (not your passengers) and leaving your electronic devices out of sight. Visit our blog for 10 more ways to instantly improve your driving.