You know how annoying it is when a car in front of you doesn’t signal, right? I hope, as a driver, that you always signal, knowing how cyclists appreciate it.
I had a funny experience the other day. I was driving a car (yes, sadly it does happen now and then) in Cambridge. When I drive, I am generally very aware of cyclists, since 95% of the time I’m on a bike myself.
I was merging from Cambridge Street onto Mass Ave at Harvard Yard. At this intersection, there are two lanes of traffic heading toward Porter Square, so you don’t actually really have to merge, you just keep going.
As I was heading straight, a cyclist entered the merging-intersection-space. He or she did not signal or look over toward me, and I didn’t really think about what he or she was doing because traffic to my left should, by rights, be staying straight. But the cyclist pulled into my lane, no doubt angry that I hadn’t stopped to let them in! I realized that of course a cyclist in this position would want to merge right so as not to be in the middle of the street. But I was unprepared.
S/he didn’t use her/his blinker! And by blinker, I mean hand signal or just eye contact.
Eye contact is an incredibly helpful tool for cyclists who want to communicate with drivers. In my experience, drivers who would like to enter a roadway and cut me off tend to stop if I look them in the eye. If I need to pull into traffic to pass a car parked in the bike lane, I use my face as a directional signal if I can’t use my hand. It really does a lot to signal intent.
Drivers are not (always) out to get us – sometimes they honestly do not know what we are about to do, even if it seems painfully obvious to us. Remember, they are driving around in large metal sensory deprivation tanks. They are not afforded the panoramic views we cyclists are, they have audio distractions like the radio or have their windows up so they can more easily ignore the world outside. Look them in the eye – this helps break down the barriers and helps them recognize you as a person.