Drivers think they own the road. It’s not true, but don’t test them.
It can be galling to be a pedestrian or cyclist in a car’s world. The roads are built to accommodate them first and you a distant second. And with a massive disparity in risk, it’s all too easy to get defiant about taking your place in traffic.
But if you’ve ever taken a defensive driving course, you know that it’s much better to avoid problems before they start – to get out of the way rather than win a hopeless and meaningless contest. That’s especially true when they have a couple of thousand pounds of metal around them and you don’t.
Yield, Yield, Yield
If you’re conflicted about whether or not to give way to a car, don’t be: the answer is always yield. You may be correct that it’s your right of way, but being right won’t help you get over a serious injury. If you’re unsure about whether or not the car should go next, always err on the side of safety.
In a car, the situation is different – it’s often better to move confidently in a right-of-way situation so you can telegraph your intent to the other drivers on the road. This isn’t the case when you’re as small and vulnerable as you are on a bicycle or on your feet.
Keep a Sharp Lookout
Having a strong sense of situational awareness is important for drivers, but it’s even more so for pedestrians and cyclists – especially in a crowded urban environment. There’s a lot going on, and it’s all happening at a speed that’s far above ordinary human reaction time. You can react appropriately if someone is running or even biking, but car movements are on a different scale.
That’s why you should study your environment as carefully as possible. Watch how fast the cars around you are going, and which ones are more erratic than others. You’d be surprised how much you can tell – and how much danger you can avoid – if you look for it carefully.
Don’t Do Anything Unexpected
When cyclists or pedestrians move in a sudden, unexpected way, drivers aren’t able to adjust their speed or direction fast enough to avoid a collision. Often, these movements aren’t illegal or in any way out of line – they’re just unexpected enough to succumb to driver error.
Again, it’s not about you being right and them being wrong. Driver error is a factor in 90% of all accidents, and being the innocent victim doesn’t change the fact that you’re a victim.
The smartest thing you can do is to move smoothly and do your best to make your intentions clear to everyone on the road around you. Use hand signals as a cyclist, make eye contact as a pedestrian, and always move cautiously. You’ll be much better off doing too much than expecting too much. Drivers make mistakes all the time, and you don’t want to be one of them.
About the Author
A. Selway Ryan is a copywriter for I Drive Safely. Originally from Canada, Ryan has made his home in car-loving Southern California. He’s written for a variety of media outlets – including one he founded – and has dabbled in filmmaking and book publishing.