If riding with a partner, always ride single file if there is traffic. If you are on a quiet road with good visibility ahead and behind you, it’s fine to ride side-by-side, but switch to single file if a vehicle comes. You are not making yourself any safer by making drivers lives harder.
The 6-inch rule
A car is meant (it doesn’t always happen but this is the theory) to allow 3ft of space between the car and a cyclist while passing. While cyclists need drivers to be predictable in observing this, drivers need cyclists to display predictable behaviour too in order for them to overtake safely. You need to cycle in as straight a line as possible while being overtaken. To achieve this, keep your eyes on the road 20-30m ahead of you while cycling as close to the edge of the road as has a good surface.
Keep it in your mind that you can move 6 inches in towards traffic without looking behind you – it is highly unlikely that a car will be within 6 inches of you at that particular moment in time. If you need to move in more than six inches, look behind you and check that it is safe to do so – this requires you to look well ahead of you so that you have time to check behind you after seeing whatever needs to be avoided. If it is not safe to move out, slow down until it is safe.
One of the most effective things you can do as a cyclist is make eye contact with drivers before they pass you. It changes you from a soulless cyclist to a an actual human being in their eyes and they will become more conscious of your presence. Even a glance toward their bumper will show them your face and achieve the same effect. It also lets them know that you are aware of their presence, so they can overtake with confidence that you won’t do something unpredictable. As was stated above, road safety is built on rules and predictability. That’s why a red traffic light means stop, and not ‘stop if you have to’. Knowledge of what other road users intend to allows everybody to make better decisions.
If you acknowledge a driver behind you on a narrow road, they can quickly pass you, but if they wait behind you because the gap is narrow and they don’t want you wobbling all over the road and into them, they quickly become frustrated and their ability to make rational decisions can become impaired.
Similarly, on some roads it is just too narrow for a car to pass a cyclist. It is perfectly alright to pull in on these occasions in preference to demonstrating your right to use the road on an equal footing.
Make driver’s lives easier and you will be safer.
Do not ride two-abreast on a narrow road. Remember that the 3-4ft rule works both ways – you need to leave 3-4ft on your right side and also enough road space to fit a car or a wide vehicle as well. Riding in a shoulder lane two-abreast is fine, but on the vast majority of roads it is not a good idea.
Riding in a large group makes passing difficult for cars trapped behind you. If you don’t like having a long line of traffic driving in intense frustration behind you, cycle on your own or with one or two other people in single file.
If you are in a small group of two or three on a busy road where it is difficult to overtake, either ride close together (a couple of feet) or far apart (200 metres or more). Make it easy for drivers to see the gaps between you where they can pull in after overtaking.
Cyclists’ tolerance for traffic varies, usually according to experience, but nobody likes cycling in traffic, and on the majority of Cycle Ireland routes you will rarely have to deal with it. Helping users to get away from traffic is one of the prime goals of the site. Any sections on busy roads are typically no more than a few kilometres long. If you do find yourself dealing with unwanted traffic, split a section in two and take a short break and relax in the middle of it.