Whatever their mode of transport, other road users do not, as a rule, deliberately delay, inconvenience, or endanger you; they’re just people trying to get to work or wherever. Keep this fact in mind and it’s easier to be a considerate commuter. Considerate doesn’t mean submissive. It means dealing with with other road users as equals – politely but assertively. Cyclists are traffic. When you’re on a bike and behave like traffic should, you usually get treated accordingly.
The first rule of considerate commuting is to obey the rules of the road, the ‘MUST’ and ‘MUST NOT’ parts of RSA Rules of the Road. Don’t run red lights. Don’t ride down pavements scattering pedestrians like pigeons. Thoughtless behaviour from cyclists seldom does direct harm but it infuriates people. Some of these people will use your transgression to justify their own subsequent bad behaviour around cyclists.
Be visible. At night, that means using decent lights and reflectors which, as far as possible, comply with Road Vehicles Lighting Regulations. During the day, it’s more a matter of road positioning. When you cycle further out from the kerb, drivers can’t help but take notice of you. It’s not inconsiderate to take the lane if there’s no room for you to be passed safely. It is considerate to relinquish the lane as and when it’s safe for you to do so.
Be clear about what you’re doing and where you going. That’s a combination of road positioning and unambiguous signalling. You’re not holding your hand up to ask permission from teacher. You are telling other road users as clearly as you can where you’re going next, so that they can react accordingly. Check if it’s safe, signal boldly, and go. In other words: look back, signal, manoeuvre.
Don’t limit your communication to direction signals. Interacting positively with another road user breaks down us-and-them barriers and helps you relate to each other on a more human level. If a driver flashes their lights to let you out of a junction, reciprocate with a polite wave or a thumbs-up sign. Likewise if they’ve waited behind you to pass at a safe place. If there’s a pedestrian ahead on a shared-use path, a friendly ‘Good morning’ – as well as or instead of ringing a bell – will let them know you’re there without it sounding like ‘Get out of my way!’.
Don’t fall into the trap of thinking that there’s no point in being a considerate cycle commuter because drivers aren’t going to show the same duty of care to you. Most of them will. There are idiots using all forms of transport. Generally speaking, however, people are all right.
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