Dealing with the other road users

medeweggebruikersOther road users often complain about us cyclists, especially when we ride in groups. Completely unjustified, of course, we never do anything wrong:). But still, they sometimes have a different view about us than we ourselves have. And that perception is a reality with which we have to deal. This image leads to a number of municipalities in Holland, Belgium, Germany etc. to impose restrictions on groups of cyclists. In France we often see signs with a car and a cyclist, with the text “Roulons ensemble”. “Let’s ride together”. We all make use of public roads and good teamwork makes it better.

How can we deal smarter with other road users?

kind op fietspad

Assessing potential danger
Children, tourists on rental bikes, cars at an exit. You must anticipate. By incorporating room to maneuver, reduce speed, and warn the otthers in your group.
See also: Room to move
See also: Signaling

Knowing what you asa group yourself arouse in others
What does a parent see and feel for instance, when confronted with a large group of cyclists? As a group of racing cyclists, we often look intimidating to others. How does the motorist feel as at a roundabout cyclists overtake him left and right (even when it is done very controlled)? Even when we feel we are riding slowly through a village, or calmly overtake other cyclists or walkers, that may not be how others experience our actions.

Making contact
Other road users are, as it were, a different species. The more they look like yourself, the more you see them as subjects. For example, you put rather a hand on to other racing cyclists than for city cyclists. The greater the difference with the other, the more you see the other as a kind of object, which you must pass. And not as a fellow road user. Try to see the subject in the other, then you automatically treat each other differently.
It involves making contact. Looking for the eyes. Raise your hand and just nod your head. Say: “Good morning”. That’s making contact. And by making contact, you solve a traffic situation more smoothly.
The point is that you’re together ‘in the picture’. The prerequisite is, of course, that you perceive each other. If you come from behind, use your bell, or warn them with a friendly call.
See also: ‘The bell as a mindgame’ at the bottom of this page.

Switching mindset
If you’re riding hard, your mental attitude is not really suitable for making contact with other road users. You’re in a race mode, with all the necessary aggression and tunnel vision to ride anything but hard. Switching then to understanding or empathy does not come easy. That’s something you have to learn. Switching between “Grr, gas!!” to “Good morning, thank you” is difficult. The more you practice it, the easier and faster you master it.
Look at athletes who shortly before a match give an interview while they are preparing for the game. And then, flick they switch to get into game mode. It is a nice thing to see. It’s also nice to be able to do that yourself. A sunny sunday is a good time to practice it 🙂
See also: Mindset and group dynamics

Encourage contact
Imagine riding a road that is just wide enough for two cars to pass each other at low speed. If your group of cyclists moves over too fast to the side of the road when there’s an oncoming car, the driver will often simply keep on driving. In fact, he sees your group as an object to pass. You’re not sure if he will actually see you.
If you take a little longer to move over, he often does move over himself and / or drive slower. Then you’ve made the contact. You notice that he takes you into account. Both parties are now engaged in an effort to solve the traffic situation in an agreeable fashion. Be aware that moving over slowly is not perceived as being aggressive. Thank him by raising your hand.

Coaching car drivers
Motorists who drive behind your group cannot oversee the traffic situation, and often have to wait a long time in a left turn before they can overtake you. When they finally have that overview, there sometimes is oncoming traffic, and they have to wait even longer.
The first riders in your group can often see much earlier than the car driver if there is oncoming traffic and if he can overtake the group. Those drivers will be grateful if you give them a signal when the road is clear for them to overtake you. Possibly you also give a signal to wait until you give the go-signal. You are for them a kind of unpaid traffic controller. 🙂

Splitting a large group
If you are riding with a very large group on a busy road, it is best to divide the group into two or more smaller groups riding a good distance apart, so that cars can leapfrog from group to group rather than overtake the entire group in one go.

When things go wrong
Even if you follow all the tips and besides being a beast on the bike, you are also a gentleman in traffic, it can still go wrong sometimes. In a car you can curse as much as you like without anyone hearing it. On the bike, the trick is to swallow them as quickly as possible. Okay, you’re startled and scream impulsively, but it might be better just to count to 10. ‘De-escalate’, that’s the point. For that, you need to switch your mindset from violent and angry to calm and collected.
A car turns, fails to see a cyclist, and the cyclist bangs the door. The man gets fuming, but before he can attack, the cyclist says: “I believe we can congratulate each other.” The driver looks surprised (his fuming program is now interrupted). Cyclist: “That was a close call. I’m so glad that…” Such a reaction is obviously genius, as humor is much better than going into a full rage.
Try to “pre-program” yourself for such a situation. What could be such a starting remark that it prevents a shouting match from starting? “You’re OK?”, “Whew, man, I must take a breath”, or, after the first cries of shock and anger, “Sorry for that, I was scared shitless”, and so on. Try to de-escalate the situation and resolve the matter quietly.
Of course, if any damage should be regulated, you have to be firm. But hopefully also quiet. Even when getting the police involved.

Group on, group off
Not only other road users have to deal with us, but also the residents there. They go a bit sleepy on the street on a Sunday morning or have coffee in the garden. For them all those excellent signals such as “For, Against, Pole” and so on sound a lot less quiet than we experience them ourselves. Louder, more compelling. And often we are not the only group that comes by, but many groups pass by.
We do not make a distinction between inside and outside built-up areas. We will continue to drive there in the same way. Why actually? Why don’t we turn off the group in built-up areas? We can’t drive fast and tight there anyway. Why don’t we ride there as single individuals or pairs as we would cycle to work on a Monday morning? That is actually one large group of separate road users. If we do that as well, then there is no longer a shouting of signals.
At the start of a built-up area we turn the group off and drive quietly as individuals. After the built-up area, we turn on our group again. We see if everyone is back together: “Complete ?!” and then continue as a group. Turning the group on and off requires some mental attention and agility. The body is in the action position and does not go out automatically. ‘Mind over matter’ is needed. Pay attention to the situation and switch from your head to the ‘stroll’ position. For one person that is a bit easier than for an other. You may need to coach each other calmly. Especially since place name signs often trigger the sprint mode.
See also above: Switching mindset
See also: Mindset and group dynamics
See also: Sprinting


The bell as mind game
Difficult. Does not belong, does not fit, won’t go. Or is it?
Of course everyone knows that ringing the bell is useful every now and then on the public roads, but for some it degrades a road bike.

The weight or aerodynamics of a bell is effectively neglectable.
So, what gives?
Some are simply logical .: “It’s convenient / wise, so put it on.”
Others go, “Yeah, but ….” And one way or another, there will be no bell on their bicycle. For those people it is coming up with a trick so that the bell does not affect the (mental) image of the racing bike. For example by:
Keep out of the picture:

HideMyBell– Mechanical bell in the holder of a cycling computer
Bell into the end of the handlebar bend
– Electronic bell through an app on your smartphone
– Bell in the bottle cage
– Bell you can easily loosen / fix (as some LED lights). In this way, the bell is not an integral part of the bike, because it is not fixed permanently. Thus it does not affect the bike and is mentally acceptable.
The bell is a real mind game :).
cartoon (make more)

Another solution is the “personal bell”: with your own voice you call friendly “Ring, ring.” And when you pass, “Thank you.”
Thus you get a better contact (subject rather than object).
But it does require a friendly mindset and you have to be able to repeat it on a busy day endlessly, and then also equally friendly :).
See also: Psychology of Cycling / Learning
See also: Psychology of Cycling / Mindset and group dynamics