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Sean Mór’s Cycling Column- ‘Drivers vs Cyclists’ battle

Cycling Col

Columnist Sean Mór at a recent Cycle safety event in Letterkenny

EASTER weekend was quiet on the local cycling front with many club members spending time with their families. A few diehards did get a training run in on Sunday morning, with sportive rider Kieran Martin teaming up with the racing riders Paul Keys, Stewarty Graham, Peter Moore and Shane Kelly.

Well done Kieran on a mighty push up through the Liskey Road, Barnescourt, Drumquin, Lowry’s Brae and Castlederg. Well done to the five club riders who also took part in the Tír Chonaill Gap CC charity cycle in the Glenties area on Easter Monday.

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Kieran Porter and James McBeth finished the course in a strong 18.7mph average, and also coming in strong were Packie Kelly, John McCullogh and Séamus Devine.

With the change in the clocks the club evening training spins have now commenced, and the first club spin took place on Tuesday night. The change in the clocks did not coincide with the arrival of good weather though, and the mixture of sportive and racing riders were met with hailstones, rain and wind on the way around the local roads. Members should keep an eye on the club’s facebook page for further evening training spins.

With greater numbers of cyclists out on the roads, on a more frequent basis, it is also a time for all of us, as roadusers, to give consideration to both the area of safety and the area of good manners. Firstly, some points for cyclists. Many experienced cyclists are cautious and aware, but I still do see a lot of basic errors in cycling behaviour. And I’m learning myself, so it does no harm to restate some points.

We need to be mindful of the needs of drivers, and try and not clog up the entire traffic system. We need to stay in smaller, compact groups, so that traffic can slow, and then overtake us safely. If we are in large, scattered, disorganised, three-abreast groups on country roads, we are making it impossible for drivers to make any safe overtaking manoeuvre. A compact group of between 6 and 10 riders is ideal. Training rides with 12 to 16 riders make it very difficult, in length terms, for traffic to get around.

We need to stop at red lights. We need to allow enough space in case someone suddenly emerges from a parked car. When a driver does make a mistake, and we all do, giving the fingers and roaring expletives is not going to resolve anything either. If you feel the need to make any physical gestures, then I’d suggest a judgemental shake of the head, to indicate your exasperation, is quite sufficient. When we have slowed traffic down, it also does no harm to acknowledge a cautious considerate driver by giving a friendly thumbs up as they pass.

And now to vehicle drivers. Firstly, please remember that cyclists are vulnerable road users. In any collision, no matter even if the cyclist is at fault, the only person who will be either killed or injured is the cyclist. At worst, you will suffer some minor paint damage. When you see a cyclist, try and imagine it is a family member of your own, and that any minor inconvenience to your speed is helping to get that family member home safely.

Also, please remember that the vast majority of cyclists are actually drivers themselves. This culture of ‘themuns don’t pay road tax’ and ‘themuns shouldn’t be riding two abreast’ etc needs to stop. Cyclists are entitled to ride two abreast. Indeed, as a regular cyclist, the vast majority of my closest shaves with death come when I am cycling on my own, in single file, and in no way obstructing traffic. This is because a small number of drivers don’t give a single-file cyclist any consideration whatsoever; they speed past you at higher speeds and they get very close to you because their main focus is on oncoming traffic, not the cyclist.

When I am riding two abreast, it is clear that it calms the traffic behind us, and leads to more responsible and safer overtaking, especially when we cyclists are in a compact disciplined group. As a rough rule of thumb, where possible, always give a cyclist 1.5 meters clearance when overtaking. We often have to weave around a multitude of hazards along the edge of the road.

I can assure non-cycling drivers, that when cars or other vehicles are behind a group of us, that the group of cyclists are very aware of that, and normally we call out to each other to either stay close together, or to go into single file, to facilitate the overtaking manoeuvre. We will avoid going into single file if the road is winding, and if it might invite an unsafe overtaking manoeuvre.

The question of ‘road tax’ (which actually doesnt exist, as it is actually vehicle tax) is always a bone of contention used against cyclists. For information purposes, SLCC club members do pay for third-party insurance when we enrol with Cycling Ireland. This protects others from any damage or harm we may cause to them, or their property, when on official club and cycling Ireland events.

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