What is SMIDSY? If you are a motorcyclist, I will not need to explain that abbreviation to you – you have heard it before, many times: Sorry Mate, I Didn’t See You! Spoken by a car driver, usually just after causing a crash with a motocyclist or after a close call.
I’m bringing this up, because earlier this week I came across a study commissioned by Direct Line Car Insurance 10 years ago. Yes, I know, we’re a bit behind the curve here, but bear with me because I suspect based on recent experience those results sadly have not changed significantly in the interim.
The concerning part of the survey is not that “15% of motorcyclists are invisible to drivers” but that “22% of cyclists are not seen by motorists compared to just 4% of jaywalkers” and that proportion rises to “26% of female drivers” and “31% of younger drivers”. So jaywalkers are five times more visible than cyclists?!? I’m glad I moved out of London where the invisibility percentage climbs to a whopping 30% of cyclists being overlooked. Specsavers - get busy!
How can we change these worrying statistics for the better? Driving is a task, as is cycling. We get better at executing tasks through practice and training.
I may have mentioned in an earlier blog that two weeks ago I had contacted DfI and DVA and had asked who is responsible for the driver education curriculum. I had suggested that a cycling proficiency test becomes part of the curriculum, the rationale being that once learner drivers get on a bicycle they will have a much better understanding of the impact that a close pass will have for a cyclist so drivers will be more careful around cyclists. I am still waiting for a response…
Unfortunately most drivers stop learning once they have passed their test. Most drivers also rarely, if ever ride a bicycle. They get into bad habits like not checking their door mirror and blind spot after having parked before opening their car door. Being doored is an ugly experience for a cyclist!
Many drivers have trouble judging the width and length of their car (see the photo above) so either pass a cyclist too closely or pull in too early, forcing the cyclist to brake to avoid having one’s front wheel clipped. Been there, seen it, got all the t-shirts…
While the Department for Infrastructure dithers, fortunately there are other options available. Advanced driving tuition is fairly affordable and it’s fun. Both the Institute of Advanced Motorists and RoSPA offer courses. You will end up a better, safer driver and most likely will get to your destination more quickly and yet more relaxed because you’ve been taught new observation and road positioning skills. You will also have been taught to give cyclists plenty of space...
If you are a cyclist and would like to improve your skills, either contact your local club or check out what Cycling UK has to offer in Northern Ireland. ANDCCG could also help you, particularly if you are a leisure cyclist who would like a refresher session on the do’s and don’ts while cycling.
As the nights are drawing in and the days are getting shorter, bear in mind that as a cyclist you are invisible to almost one in four cars you encounter on the road. Make sure you do everything to avoid hearing that dreaded “SMIDSY”:
Use lights, even in daylight hours. I find that they do make a noticeable difference to drivers noticing a cyclist.
Wear bright clothes on your bike to make you more visible. Lomo makes a dayglow yellow reflective helmet cover that’s very effective and inexpensive. Highly recommended.
Use reflective trouser leg clips. Cheap and effective.
Don’t trust anyone. If someone coming from your right is indicating to turn into the road out of which you want to exit, wait until you are 100% sure the driver will actually turn. Try to make eye contact. Until that happens, the only thing you can be sure of is that the indicator is working, nothing else.
Stay safe! And be grateful we are cycling here, not in London!