Tips for riding with pedestrians and cars

Sharing roads and pathways with other modes of transport is something that all bicycle riders need to do. While bicycle-dedicated pathways are growing in number, the more common riding experience means we mix in with pedestrians, mopeds, cars and trucks. Knowing how to share these spaces well is essential. Here are some tips for riding with pedestrians and cars that I find useful.

1. Be predictable

When sharing the road or pathway, always give clear signals. There are hand signals for changing direction or slowing down. Use your voice as well. Politely, of course. Let pedestrians know that you’re going to pass them. And let other cyclists know too.

2. Don’t be afraid to ring your bell

Some pedestrians have thanked me for ringing my bell. Some have jumped with fright. Others have been angry at hearing my bicycle bell. People will respond in different ways. You can’t control that, but you can make sure that they know you’re there. So, don’t be shy about ringing your bell. It’s safer.

3. Anticipate changes

Not everyone is on the lookout for bicycle riders. Staying alert to what’s around you and ahead of you allows you to anticipate how you need to ride. I always watch out for signs of movement in parked cars. Is anyone sitting in the driver’s seat or has anyone just got into the car? Have you seen parking lights come on? The wheels of the car will be the first thing to move, so watch them for movement and direction. Also know when you can’t anticipate changes. For example, when there are young children on the pathway or dogs on extendable leads, anything could happen. Slow down and be ready to adapt and respond.

4. Be seen

This is not only about lights which are extremely important at night, dusk and dawn. Being seen is also about making eye contact with pedestrians and drivers. At intersections, aim to make sure the driver has made eye contact with you so that you can feel confident that they know you are there. I find heavily tinted side-windows on cars inhibit my ability to check in this way. If I’m in doubt as to whether they’ve seen me, I slow down before crossing their path. Visibility at night is also enhanced by reflective clothing. During winter, my end-of-the-day work commute means I’m riding in the dark. I wear a vest made of highly reflective fabric (Proviz). After I started wearing the vest on my commute, I noticed cars stopped for me when they would usually not have seen me.

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5. Be aware that other users may underestimate the pace of your e-bike

With e-bikes being relatively new to our streets, their speed and ability to accelerate quickly is new to other road users. When riding my e-bike, I’ve had a few instances where drivers made a manoeuvre that clearly didn’t account for the speed with which I was moving. Drivers are used to fast bikes being lycra-clad roadies but not the woman on her commute dressed for work. As people become more familiar with interacting with e-bikes, this will hopefully change.

6. Aim for harmony

We can all get cranky over irresponsible or reckless actions by other road and pathway users. I certainly have. Try not to dwell on those experiences. Be your best considerate self when you’re riding. Respect and harmony need to start somewhere. Choose to be someone who leads the way.  

Gail Rehbein is a bicycle-riding writer who loves to share stories, information and inspiration about life seen from two wheels on Australia’s Gold Coast and beyond. You can find her work and make contact on her website A Bike for All Seasons. She is also an ambassador for Bicycle Queensland.

Follow Gail on Instagram: @abike4allseasons

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