It is with great sadness and disappointment that I express my disgust with some drivers who display little or no consideration for people cycling along the roads in the Virgin Islands. I can recall vividly in 2007 when a fellow cyclist was training in the time-trial mode when a motor vehicle cut off his path of travel. As a result, the cyclist had a head-on collision with the vehicle and received life-threatening injuries. It was divine intervention that the cyclist is still alive today.
The United States National Highway Traffic Safety Administration stated that 857 cyclists were killed in motor vehicular accidents in 2018 in the US. It is quite clear that a vehicle has far more outreaching advantages over a bicycle in terms of physical size, weight, speed and manoeuvrability. Why do some drivers fail to exercise caution and consideration when they see cyclists on the road?
I am certain that was not the first time a cyclist had been injured by an inconsiderate driver here in the Virgin Islands. There has been a string of bicycle and vehicular accidents over the years that led to cyclists being injured. You will be surprised to know how in the blink of an eye such tragedies can occur. It may be as simple as the vehicle hitting or rubbing the rear wheel of the bicycle or the driver cutting off the cyclist after overtaking them by pulling in their path and stopping or driving slowly.
Another potential cause of a head-on collision is drivers who fail to indicate or indicate late their intention to make a right or left turn. I can attest to such a collision because I was the victim of a driver indicating too late in making a right turn. I could not clamp down on my brakes. If I did, it meant that I was going to be thrown off my bike and sent flying in the air — or if I was not able to clip out of my pedals I would have fallen onto the vehicle and ended up in the middle of the road with my bike. However, I was able to clip out my shoes, and I broke my fall but still ended up stumbling into the middle of the road.
Most recently, a fellow cyclist fell victim to another vehicular accident. All the accidents that I am aware of took place during broad daylight.
I would like to suggest the following to enable both drivers and cyclists to be more considerate on the road.
Drivers should take the following precautions:
- When you overtake a cyclist, do not pull directly into their path of travel;
- after overtaking, keep in mind that the cyclist is still behind you travelling at a constant pace, and therefore allow a two-foot path from the edge of the road to the vehicle’s mirror as you continue driving;
- blow your horn when overtaking;
- instead of driving too close to the rear wheel of the cyclist in front of you, allow a bike length for manoeuvring; and
- indicate your intention to turn left or right early.
For their part, cyclists should take the following precautions:
- be aware of your surroundings;
- indicate your intention to turn left or right;
- do not ride too close behind a vehicle;
- make drivers aware of your presence; and
- try to make eye contact with drivers when possible.
Do not cause a tragedy by failing to heed these critical tips. Remember that cyclists are fathers, mothers, spouses, daughters, sons and friends. There is always someone who is counting on them to return home safely.