A beginner’s guide to vulnerable road users pt 2

Cyclist with helmet and high visiblity waistcoat checks over their shoulder for safety.

Published 18 January 2022
Last updated 22 February 2022

Hello and welcome to the second part of our ‘guide to vulnerable road users.’ In this post we’re going to take a look at what you can do to stay safe around cyclists.

Why are cyclists vulnerable?

Cyclists can be found on most types of road. You may encounter more in urban areas, but that doesn’t mean that you won’t see plenty of them in villages or rural settings.

Cyclists are particularly vulnerable because:

  • They have nothing to protect them except optional equipment such as helmets
  • They can easily be affected by wind and poor road surfaces
  • They are smaller than other vehicles making them easy to overlook, especially at junctions
  • Large vehicles have blind spots where a cyclist can easily be hidden from the drivers view
  • They are particularly at risk at roundabouts where they are exposed to traffic changing lanes.
  • In a busy environment a cyclist can be hard to see if they blend into the background.

Seeing what we expect to see

Let’s pick up on that last point with a bit of science. Our brains are amazing, but sometimes they make mistakes interpreting the world around us. At the same time, our eyes are only capable of capturing a fraction of the visual information available, so the brain fills in the gaps and makes ‘guesses’ about the missing bits.

Because we cannot process all the information we receive, there’s always a chance that we will miss a hazard – especially if we are not ‘expecting’ to see one. For example, we may miss a cyclist because they are ‘hidden’ by background details, such as a vehicle directly behind them.

Top tips for cyclist safety

So what can you do to help? Well, here’s a few safety tips to get you started:

  • Stay alert and continually scan for hazards. Use your mirrors to gather as complete a picture of the road environment as you can
  • Pay particular attention to your nearside mirror before you turn left. Cyclists might appear suddenly out of a blind spot
  • Look for cyclists specifically - the more you expect to see them, the more likely you are to spot them
  • Give cyclists time and space. Do not hassle them by driving too close – wait until you are able to pass them safely and give them plenty of room when you overtake
  • Don’t turn left straight after overtaking a cyclist. They may not have time to adjust their speed, which could lead to a collision
  • Stay out of cycle lanes marked with a solid white line and only drive in a cycle lane marked with a broken white line if its unavoidable.

Cycles of learning

We hope that this blog helps you to become a better, safer driver. If you’re hungry for more, then pop over to the Safe Driving for Life shop and check out The Official DVSA Guide to Driving the Essential Skills and The Official DVSA Guide to Better Driving. They’re packed full of top tips and advice designed to help you get the most from every stage of your driving life.

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