Us cyclists are vulnerable citizens, out on the road with nothing more than half a centimeter of Lycra between us and the hard, unforgiving bitumen. It’s essential to know your rights, how to engage with and report drivers who endanger you or those around you, and more importantly, how to stay safe.
If you have been becoming increasingly worried about your safety out on the road, a cycling camera may be a good investment. Designed to catch the number plates and record incidents, the evidence captured may be paramount in a court case.
The rules for road users
A huge step forward in cycling safety is the recent legislation which mandates that all road users must not come within 1 metre of a cyclist when the speed limit is 60km/h or less, or 1.5 meters when the speed limit exceeds 60 km/h. You should know that this rule also applies when you are riding two abreast. This distance is measured from the rightmost part of you or the bicycle, to the leftmost portion of the vehicle.
If you feel that a driver has passed dangerously close to you, even if no one was hurt, you are able to report this to the authorities. Using the online cyclist complaint form, you are able to inform the police of dangerous drivers. If a complaint is deemed to be credible, you may be required to attend a court case and present evidence. It is essential that you get at least the number plate or some other identifying characteristic of the offending vehicle. Remember, the burden of proof in legal proceedings is ‘beyond reasonable doubt,’ therefore you will need some form of evidence to not only identify the driver, but to back up your claim.
If the actions of a driver has caused a person to be injured, you may need to call 000. If you wish to report an incident where either a person or property has been damaged, it needs to be done in person at your local police station.
How to deal with aggressive drivers
Do not escalate the situation. If the driver is mad at you, flipping them the bird, banging on their car or any general signs of aggression will only make the situation worse.
We see them all the time: drivers flipping us off, driving too close, or just generally going out of their way to make our lives hell. Talk to anyone who rides on the road and they will have a horror story, but how should you deal with the situation when it happens to you?
Most conflict resolution manuals often instruct you to empathize, communicate and explore options with the offending party. Not particularly useful when a B-double truck is trying to force you off the road. So how do you deal with someone who seems determined to do you harm? The most important thing is to get somewhere safe. If you can pull over or onto a footpath, it’s unlikely that they will too. However, if this isn’t an option, the next thing is do not escalate the situation. If the driver is mad at you, flipping them off, banging on their car or any general signs of aggression, whilst immensely satisfying, will only make the situation worse.
By hurling abuse at you for simply riding on the road, the driver has given away a critical part of their character – chances are that they will not respond to reason, or a logically developed, persuasively delivered argument. Let them speed by, or if they do pull over, ride away faster than Rohan Dennis in a time trial. Safety should always come first – don’t put yourself in danger over an argument about who is in the right.
The ultimate protection is to do what you can to not get in the way of motorists, regardless of whether or not you have right of way in your situation. This may sound like victim blaming, but when the perpetrator has two tonnes of steel on their side, a little inconvenience for you may be the wisest decision to help you make it to your destination safely.