As the summer season approaches and both residents and tourists alike head out onto the roads, it can be a moment of panic – or indeed despair – for motorists who find themselves in a queue of traffic on their way to their fun day out.
However, whilst it may seem to be the world’s biggest inconvenience to find yourself stuck behind a tractor, a cyclist, or indeed a horse and its rider, there are some important things to be considered before making a hasty overtake around them.
If you’ve got your booking made at your favourite country pub and the time is ticking, it can be tempting to push the limits when you encounter an obstacle on the roads. Despite this, it is imperative that you make sure your actions are safe for everyone.
What do I do if I’m stuck behind a tractor?
Getting caught behind a tractor – which often has machinery or a trailer attached to it – isn’t just as simple as overtaking. Especially on the Island, roads are often too narrow to overtake a car, let alone agricultural vehicles.
It’s important to wait until the road widens and a good view of the road ahead is established, making sure to take note of any blind bends and hills that could obscure vision.
Rule 169 of the Highway Code says that tractors should not hold up a long queue of traffic, and that farmers should frequently check their mirrors and if necessary pull into a passing point to allow other vehicles to pass.
On a moral level, it’s important to remember that farmers and tractor drivers are just doing their jobs – and they are important jobs too. Farmers in the UK grow a staggering 61% of the food that the nation eats, according to Countryfile.
So that’s tractors, what about cyclists?
On the Island, we’re lucky enough to have several designated cycle tracks weaving through the countryside and connecting main towns, including Newport, Sandown, Cowes, and other areas. For the commuting cyclist though, these tracks may not be as useful as they seem due to their limited entry and exit points.
If you’re on your way to work, or trying to drop the kids to school on time, seeing a cyclist (or several cyclists) in the distance can be disheartening. However, what seems to be a long delay usually isn’t, and cyclists have just as much right to be on the roads as cars and other vehicles.
Contrary to popular belief, cyclists are also legally permitted to ride 2 abreast. Despite this, Rule 66 of the Highway Code states cyclists should never ride more than 2 abreast – although this is set to be reviewed. Rule 66 also says that cyclists should go into single file on narrow or busy roads and should factor in road conditions when cycling around bends.
Drivers must leave 1.5 metres distance when overtaking cyclists to ensure a safe pass.
Now, how about horses?
One of the most daunting road users to try and overtake can be horses. The animals whilst usually friendly and well trained, can – like any animal – be unpredictable. Rule 215 of the Highway Code states that cars should overtake horses ‘wide and slow’.
This can help prevent horses from spooking and causing injury to themselves, their rider, or you. Drivers should also bear in mind that horses riding 2 abreast often consists of an experienced rider accompanying a less experienced or novice rider.
Motorists are warned to treat horses as potential hazards and pay attention to hand signals made by riders. It may seem inconvenient, but most riders are happy to move over to allow you to pass if it’s safe to do so.