Driving around bicycles and PMDs

Published September 24, 2021, 8:03 AM

by Inigo Roces

Besides motorcycles, another vehicle we have to learn to share the road with are personal mobility devices (PMDs). The term may be new, but chances are, you’ve already seen these vehicles on the road. PMDs are composed of smaller, lower speed vehicles like bicycles, electric kick-scooters, and even the newer and more creatively designed modes of transport like hoverboards, Segways, and One-wheels. These all fall into the PMD segment, and are generally allowed to ply bicycles lanes. In light of the current health and safety restrictions and the limitations with public transport, the government has highly encouraged their use, so expect to see more on the road.

Of course, not all roads have bicycle lanes yet, so it’s important to learn how to drive alongside these vehicles. Having the larger vehicles, it’s part of our responsibility to ensure we offer them as much courtesy as we do pedestrians, and our fellow motorists on four wheels.

Leave a one-meter gap

When encountering commuters on the road, whether or not on a bike lane, a good rule of thumb is to leave PMD users a 1-meter gap. This gap gives them enough room to maneuver and also leaves enough space away from the air turbulence a car produces that could easily disrupt their balance.

This gap gives them a lot of room to maneuver without running the risk of colliding. This is critical as we know the roads aren’t perfect and they’ll need to maneuver around potholes or obstacles on the bicycle lane as well.

Let them know you’re there

The road is pretty noisy and just as we may be oblivious to other vehicles, they may be too. As such, it’s always a good idea to let them know you’re there. The best and most polite way to do this is with a quick beep (pressing the horn for ½ of a second). Do not use a long beep, as they may think you’re angry. Before passing, slow down and let them know you’re there. Don’t assume they know. This lets them know in a courteous way that you’re nearby. In some cases, they may even pull over to the side to give you room to pass.

Anticipate their next move

Being the faster vehicle (and without the need to balance) we’re in a better position to react to and anticipate cyclists or PMD users if the unpredictable happens. This can range from them suddenly swerving or losing balance and falling. As such, even with the one-meter gap, keep your eye on them in order to anticipate their next move and possibly avoid an accident. Observe where their head is facing, what they’re looking at, or if there is an obstacle in front of them. Are they looking to the side of an intersection? They may suddenly stop soon and turn. These clues may indicate they are about to turn, slow down, or maybe even change lanes.

Always let them go first

Unlike motorized vehicles where a motor takes care of all the work for us, a cyclist or PMD user only has the pedal or a smaller motor to propel their vehicle. That being said, it takes a lot more energy to maintain speed or even accelerate. As such, if you’re about to change lanes, turn, or cross an intersection while you’re beside, just behind, or just a meter or two ahead of a cyclist or PMD user, better to let them pass first before you change lanes or turn. They’ll appreciate the gesture and the effort you save them, rather than cutting them off and forcing them to pedal or accelerate from a standstill again.

Finally, always overtake on the left. Overtaking on the right is dangerous no matter who you are passing, whether car, motorcycle, cyclist, or PMD user.

Equality for road users

The pandemic has forced many of us to rethink our routines, that includes getting to work. This doesn’t give us any right to treat other road users like second-class citizens. Even if some of them may not need a license to be on the road, that doesn’t give us the right to push the weight of our cars around these road users. We’re all just making the best of our situation. Who knows? They could actually be drivers just like us who have opted for greener transportation.