Conquent: Without Limits
Conquent: Without Limits
John Bissell's Blog

Being worried about cars and traffic

2010-02-05 19:30:13
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A friend of mine is training for long distance rides. He is a strong athlete and took up cycling a year ago. This year he got a new bike and is planning to ride some double century (200 miles in a day) rides. To do these rides he needs to ride quite a bit, and some of the riding will need to be alone. He and I have been talking about routes, and then he wrote in an e-mail that he was a little worried about the car drivers out there. Below is my response. He suggested that I share it as it might be helpful for others:

“I’m a bit concerned about all the potential bad drivers that I’m more likely to encounter when riding on so many different roads.”

Good, you should, they weigh a lot more than you. Know these things:

1. You are invisible most of the time, even with flashers and a bright yellow vest. Also your visibility depends largely on expectations – you are lots more visible in Seattle than in Lynnwood, because drivers expect cyclists in Seattle, and they don’t in Lynnwood. (Note to readers – this rider lives in the Seattle Metro area. For those of you around the world you can think of similar situations – safer in Portland OR than Beaverton OR, safer in Downtown Sacramento, than in Citrus Heights etc).

2. When you are seen, most drivers are courteous, the second largest group is tolerant, the third largest group is grumpy but not dangerous, and the last few % are flipping insane. Do the math, lets say that the insane “I want to kill a bicyclist today” group is 1% (it could be higher or lower, but we’ll use that number) you see hundreds of cars on the road, even on back roads. – lets say you see 500 cars. That means 5 drivers are actually out to get you. That may not really be right, because I don’t see that many, but it does mean that you need to be alert and know how to mange traffic. (You should note that these numbers are true on the freeway when you’re driving too – maybe even more true, because of the tension created on the freeway. It’s just part of life with cars.)

3. Use a helmet mirror. That way you will know what is going on around you

4. Do not use an iPod – or put anything else in your ears, keep your senses alert all the time – know what is around you

5. Make your presence known, take the lane when you need to

6. Be predictable - Don’t weave in and out of traffic – ride a straight line, make sure your signals are clear and to the point as in don’t just stick out your hand for a turn as a function of following the rules – make eye contact and be sure. I got hit once when I thought I had made eye contact and the driver later said she never saw me.

7. Be empathetic: think about what the other driver sees and how your are seen by them.

8. Also know how the drivers mind works. As we drive we process lots on information. It is not information that we need to remember, so we dump it as soon as the obstacle is passed. When you’re on a bike, you are the obstacle, as soon as you are behind the peripheral vision of the driver, you do not exist. Thus drivers pass cyclists, then make right turns, running over the cyclist that was still next to them. Always be alert to the potential of a driver turning right while you are next to the vehicle.

9. Know your bailout – where can you go to get out of the way of the crazy if you have to.

Training for Long Rides - Part I Hydration
Complete Streets

StashBob: Re: Being worried about cars and traffic
2010-02-06 08:15:33

Good Job - Living in Davis, we worry too little. It is like, we think it's all good because we are such an acclaimed city for cycling, but the reality is there are still a lot of those aimless drivers who just don't pay attention, or they have a phone call, or text to take care of.

StashBob@wordpress has lots of blogs too

steelcycling: Re: Being worried about cars and traffic
2010-02-08 08:46:02

Great article John.

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