How close was that?

Eddie Barkla | Bendigo Weekly | 30-Mar-2012

TIGHT FIT: This is not a good place to be on the road.
A common fear among cyclists (most would think that it is falling off, which is part of the truth), is that their actions may well cause someone else to fall off and be injured.
There are many other fears that riders can suffer from particularly new comers to the cycling scene.
Fear of cornering, or going downhill too fast, are both factors that are faced and overcome through gaining experience and encouragement.
There are, however, some sharing the road fears that we have very little control over.
We need to be mindful they exist and try our best to be predictable in the manner in which we share the road by placing ourselves in the view and flow of other traffic users.
We appreciate that some professional drivers such as taxi, bus and truck drivers have great judgment and precision skills, but this does not take away the shock when a vehicle of any kind suddenly appears very close in the shared space.
Buses in particular are very difficult to hear coming from behind, as they have a rear motor and the noise does not make you aware of their approach until they are right beside you.
This is not the fault of the driver, it is just a matter of fact that buses can create a real shock to cyclists when passing.
Their physical size is daunting as they overshadow a rider, unlike a car which is around head height in most cases.
Buses are quite wide and they seem to fill the lane, whereas a car or similar can give a clear metre of clearance and still not have to encroach over the centre line.
Buses and large trucks also create a vortex that has a tendency to make a pull on the rider as they pass.
Trucks with dog trailers also give quite a scare with their large open wheels.
Cyclists generally cope with the first approach of the prime mover, but the closeness of the trailer can sometimes cause a quickening of the heart as riders are pulled sideways by their draft and vortex wind.
Other vehicles that have a similar affect and create those moments of “how close was that?” are tradesmen with their four wheel drive utilities and tandem trailers that are just that bit wider than the vehicle.
We can brace ourselves when we are aware of the passing vehicle but the closeness of what is following is an added challenge.
We try to remain relaxed, taking into account that what may seem close is not always as near as we may think, but the heartfelt question remains “How close was that?”
There are other times when we can feel quite vulnerable apart from the “I know you are there, just don’t know how big and long you are or what you are towing” feeling that can overwhelm a rider.
There is often a sinking feeling when a vehicle draws up beside you with their left hand blinker flashing, making your space very limited, not to mention the uncertainty of “Are they going to cut me off and turn anyway?”
Our hope is that others may have a fear injuring cyclists and try to share the road safely.
Looking forward to seeing you on the road soon, God willing.


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