Pedestrians & Cyclists: Friends or Foes?

Pedestrians are out there.

Riding, walking, crossing, not paying attention. Pedestrians and cyclists share the road with us each and every day. They don’t know the dangers they pose and frankly don’t care a whole lot. They pose a great threat to any driver and one could be standing behind you right now!

As any driver knows, there will come times when you have to share the road with pedestrians and cyclists. Whether they are in the sidewalk, crosswalk or riding alongside in the traffic lane, they have every right to be there, same as you. The pedestrian is always right. It might not be a law in the rule book, but it is something to keep in mind. You’re in a vehicle protected by metal, seat belts and airbags. They are on foot or on a bike protected by virtually nothing. In the tragic case of an accident involving a pedestrian or cyclist, the driver will always look like the bad guy regardless of the circumstance.

Don’t Play the Blame Game

Let’s not focus on blame, but rather on safety. A safe driver understands the dangers pedestrians and cyclists pose. A safe driver also understands that in many areas, sharing the road is not only legal, but necessary. Pedestrians and cyclists aren’t out there looking for trouble, they just want to get where they’re going. You’ve probably been on both ends of the story; you’ve had to avoid hitting someone because one or neither of you were paying attention or you almost got clipped because you were too busy texting someone. We’ve all been there, but it doesn’t make it right.

Especially nowadays, people are buried in their phones and watching out for traffic is an afterthought. Although we’d encourage those walking and riding next to traffic to stay away from their phones, we don’t have much control over it. What we do have control over is what we can do as drivers to be as safe as possible.

Look Ahead, Look Around

Safely driving alongside pedestrians and cyclists begins with slowing down. You’ll still get to your destination on time; there’s no need to speed past people. Then, you should always be looking ahead and looking around. Look ahead to see what’s in front and what may become an obstacle. Looking ahead with about a 15 second eye lead time will give you plenty of time to prepare for whatever might be out there. Then you should look around. Most often, pedestrians and cyclists aren’t directly in front of you. They are walking curbside right next to your vehicle or riding in your blind spot. Look around by rocking and rolling in your seat to check your mirrors and look around your blind spots.

Communicate – The Right Way

Remember, people don’t make for big targets, they can easily be in your blind spot without you ever knowing they were there. Especially in crowded areas such as parking lots and shopping districts, you should always assume there might be someone around your vehicle. Before you back out of a parking space, make sure no one is behind you or is about to walk into the path of your vehicle. Lastly, if you see someone whose about to walk or bike into danger, you can communicate. Don’t shout profanities out the window, but rather flash your lights or honk your horn. Get the person’s attention so they know what’s going on.

It’s not very difficult to look ahead, look around, communicate or rock and roll in your seat. These actions take only seconds with very minimal effort, but we fail to do them as often as we should. A collision with a pedestrian or cyclist is always a tragedy that could have been avoided. By consistently practicing these safe driving behaviors, we give ourselves the best chance to avoid such accidents.

They are out there, they do pose a danger, but we can all safely share the road as friends.