Do you ever wish the person driving dangerously close to you while you’re on your bike could feel what you feel?
Cyclists in Brazil got the chance to show bus drivers exactly what it feels like when a giant steel contraption flies by you a mere five feet away from where you ride.
Bicycling.com explains the video and what exactly is going on:
“Motorists aren’t always aware of how little space they’re giving cyclists—three feet is admittedly hard to gauge, and it’s even harder to do from the driver’s seat of a bus. An educational program in Cariacica, Brazil, might provide the best incentive to keep drivers alert to cyclists’ needs: turning the tables and getting drivers on bikes.
As part of the program, bus drivers ride stationary bikes on the side of a busy road, and experience what it’s like to get passed by a bus. The buses leave them about 1.5 meters—nearly five feet—of space, which is the law in Brazil. Even with that much breathing room, the drivers in this video clearly get the point: Passing laws are there for a reason.”
Now, anyone who has ever driven a car or a bus can tell you that no one driving really wants to frighten a cyclist by driving too close to them. (Of course, there is the occasional road rage situation where a driver specifically targets a cyclist, but that is certainly not the vast majority of drivers on the road.)
It is much, much more common that a driver who is way too close to you is only doing so because they don’t realize how close they are or they feel road conditions are forcing them into your space. They have no idea the level of fear their close passing distance is causing.
Most of us are just doing our best, most of the time, and that includes drivers.
While it seems like common sense to you on your bike, many drivers can’t conceive of just how close they get to cyclists or how scary it is to have a car get that close. Drivers assume if they don’t make contact with you, that they are a safe distance away. After all, they didn’t hit you, right?
Of course, cyclists know that simply not getting hit is not enough to feel like you are having a safe ride. A car moving at any speed presents a very real risk to any pedestrian or cyclist who might have the misfortune of getting in the car’s way, and so a significant amount of clearance is required to feel truly safe sharing the road.
That’s why this experiment in Brazil is such a good idea. Drivers don’t want to be scaring the living daylights out of the cyclists who share the road with them; they just don’t know how often they are doing just that.
Maybe if more experiments like this one took place — showing drivers what it feels like to be a cyclist — there would be more compassion on the road and we would all do a better job of making the road a safer place for everyone.
We can all actually make this happen for drivers in our own lives, just by taking a friend or loved one on a bike ride in the city with us. As the video from Brazil shows, experiencing what it’s like to be on a bike on a road full of cars can do a lot to give a driver perspective on what it’s like for the other side.
Sharing the biking experience just might make everyone be a little bit more respectful and understanding of what it’s really like to share the road, which will keep all of us safer and happier.