What makes car drivers dangerous?

I have come to the conclusion that there is a common factor to nearly every instance I experience of dangerous driving by car, van, bus and lorry drivers.

Obstructions

It seems as simple as that.

Obstructions make drivers dangerous.

Let me give you some examples.

  1. Riding towards Thurmaston from Syston there are a number of mini-roundabouts. Car drivers see these as obstructions, as things that might hold them up.  So they try to overtake even at the last moment when the road narrows due to the island in the middle. They do this even more aggressively if they can see other people waiting at the roundabout or queuing after it or if they can’t see one of the roads due to trees.
  2. When there is an obstruction ahead such as a Red traffic light then drivers feel the need to overtake (and then slam their brakes on). It does not matter to them that you will immediately overtake them when they are stationary.
  3. Whenever the road narrows for traffic calming then cars feel the need to overtake just before it so that they get to the slower bit first. They will squeeze through any gap and ignore oncoming traffic to achieve that goal of getting to the obstruction first.
  4. When there are speed bumps then cars will overtake even immediately before them and then jam their brakes on so they don’t break their suspension. So often this forces the cyclist who was just overtaken to also brake hard to avoid going into the back of the car.
  5. Cars frequently respond in the same way with speed cameras. They know one is ahead, it is an obstruction to their journey so they race to get t0 the speed camera as quickly as possible overtaking well past the last safe place. Then they brake hard to avoid triggering the camera.

Dave’s Law: The slower an obstruction forces a driver to go the more aggressively they will approach it and the closer to it they will overtake bikes.

What this means is that obstructions  designed to slow car drivers often make life more dangerous for cyclists (or at least feel more dangerous).

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  1. I know the road whereof you speak!

    These obstruction to the highway are an ever present threat to cyclist as well: cars and heavier traffic bounce over and round these obstructions degrading the road surfaces all users – there tend to be far more potholes in the vicinity of the obstructions.

    One further point exemplified on the road you mention is the hazard that pinch points present to the cyclist. The road width is invariably pinched from the kerb, forcing the cyclist towards the centre of the carriageway and into the line of following traffic, often without the driver being aware of what is happening.

    I do hope you will submit your observations to Leicester and Leicestershire traffic engineers!

    • John,

      “I do hope you will submit your observations to Leicester and Leicestershire traffic engineers!”

      We only moved here in August and I have not yet discovered how to interact with them yet. Any suggestions?

  2. Transport Assessments – Charnwood Borough Council « 42 Bikes - pingback on November 11, 2010 at 6:11 pm

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