[PREV - BICYCLES] [TOP]
April 2, 2001
Rev: July 23, 2007
Motorists that are actively hostile toward
cyclists are actually very rare, so the
primary problem in bike safety boils down
to making sure that they see you.
So you need to ride where they're going
to see you, not where they want you to be.
In the absence of a bike lane, you typically need
to ride a little out in traffic, further to the
left than feels right at first.
Typically, you feel very nervous about the powerful
machinery behind you, but you need to remember that
rear-end collisions on a bike are very unusual.
The way that you really get nailed is by
(a) people opening the doors of
parked cars in your path,
knocking you out into traffic
(this is called "getting
doored", or "winning the door
(b) people making turns
in front of you.
That car on your left that
you've been cruising next to
may do a sudden right;
On-coming traffic often
gets hyper about making a
left in a gap between the
And of course: cross traffic
making rights or lefts into
The solution to every one of
these problems is just to stay Everyone when first hearing
out to the left, out of reach this thinks that it's wrong:
of the doors of parked cars, you must be able to just
and in the area that everyone's watch for people who are
watching. going to swing their doors
Taking the entire lane is not
out the question. Legally that's It doesn't work. Head
what you're supposed to do if rests and tinted rear
it's required for safety, and windows obscure people
that's what we're talking about sitting in cars; the
here. oblique angle of view
And if you do get pressured over reflection off the side
into the door zone for some windows -- it's
reason, *slow down*. You may physically impossible to
need to stop suddenly. see through them even if
they're not tinted.
And don't *stay* in the
door zone. Even riding And best of all: the
ilegally on the drivers hide from you.
sidewalk is preferable Nearly every single
(but see the notes below person, before getting
about the problems with out of a parked car
sidewalk riding). hunches over and starts
rummaging around for
Lights are important: there stuff on the floor and
are a lot of cheap flashing passenger seat.
lights available that you can
see a mile away at night. They then swing their
doors open suddenly,
High visibility gear would often before they
probably help, but in my even straighten up,
experience isn't really let alone before they
necessary: I generally ride in consider looking
whatever I'd normally wear. But behind them.
since this is usually dark
colors, I double up on lights:
two behind, and two in front.
This also helps cover equipment
problems (dead batteries,
and so on).
Yeah, wear a helmet.
I personally think they're
overrated: in a really The anti-helmet riders claim that
serious crash, they're not there's a peculiar phenomena:
going to do much for you. car drivers give you more space if
On the other hand, you don't have a helmet on.
there's a chance that they
may keep a moderate Possibly they worry more about
accident from turning into your safety? Or possibly you
a major injury. register to them as something
more like a human being?
And if you do get hurt,
if don't have that In any case, there
helmet, you can guarantee are other solutions:
that everyone (including ride further to the
the police, the local left so they take you
press, and the opposing seriously as traffic;
lawyers) will all claim and consider tricking
that this shows that out your bike to make
you're obviously crazy it more visible:
and irresponsible. Probably your
friends and Insane decor like glitzy
family will handle bar tassels.
So wear a helmet. say this, too.
Rear basket(s) to make
But remember, the real you're bike look wider
defense is to avoid the (some drivers seem to
collision. think the bike is only as
wide as your rear tire).
The trouble with this
is that it would also
make your bike a target
for vandalism when it's
locked up unattended.
Sad but true:
stick your head
above the crowd
and someone will Particularly
try to hammer it if they can
down. do it anonymously.
Lately I've been working on
something I call the Theory of
Erratic Steering. If the car
traffic is buzzing too close to
you, try jerking your steering
wheel toward the moving cars.
If you keep making little feints
out into traffic, they'll think
you're a complete lunatic and
stay further away from you.
Watch out for trolley tracks
embedded in the street: if you
have to cross one, try to do it at
right angles. If you try to ride
on one while you're moving in a
direction nearly parallel to them, Advanced technique to work on:
it could easily catch your wheels the "bunny hop". Some riders
and take you down. Careful with can jump side ways with their
street gratings, too. bikes, picking it up on their
By the way: about lock up
procedures. I personally carry
three bike locks: a U-lock, a
heavy cable, and a light cable.
There are two ideas here:
(1) most bike thieves only carry
the tools they need to break
one type of lock. If you
use two different ones,
they'll probably leave you
(2) the "quick-release"
philosophy is fundamentally
screwed up. Pop your front
wheel off and lock it up
with the back? *Great* way
to let everyone know your
bike is going to be
unattended for hours. It's
also a huge waste of time.
And what if you make a
mistake when you're putting
it back on? Don't forget to
re-attach that brake
cable. Make sure you get
that wheel tight, don't want
it popping off in traffic,
Don't forget you need to
worry about your seat
getting stolen also, Also, that
*especially* if it's got third cable Myself, I make sure
a silly quick-release lever lock is skinny that the helmets I
on it. That's what I use enough to buy have a port
the third lock for: it holds thread through wide enough to fit
the seat on, even when I my helmet, so my cable lock through.
need the heavy cable lock I can lock it
for something else. to the bike. But some helmets
aren't designed to
take the wear, so
so over time the
where I thread the
You know you shouldn't ride up lock through.
on the sidewalk, right? So
don't ride on the sidewalk. But
if you *do* ride on the
sidewalk: *go slow*. If you're And *don't* go shooting off the
in pedestrian territory, go sidewalk into a cross-walk: you
at pedestrian speeds. may take a car driver making a
turn by surprise. That's one
way that cyclists get themselves
That incidentally, sums up killed.
my opinion on the always
controversial question of
how to handle red lights
and stop signs:
If you do slide
through a red or
a stop, do it A bike going the speed
slow enough that of a pedestrian can get away
it's no worse with acting like a pedestrian,
than jay-walking. but if you're going at
vehicular speed, you better
act like a vehicle.
A lot of cyclists like to
talk about "the Idaho
rules": treat reds as
stops and stops as yields. (This is the law
for bikes in Idaho.)
That works, too. In practice,
it's not all that different:
don't just blow through
intersections and count on
the cross-traffic to know
that cyclists are gonzo crazy.
Some maneuvers I use:
At the light, you pass the line of
stopped cars on their right -- take it
easy on the speed, you're probably in
the door zone -- then you pause at the
cross walk (letting peds through), then
you move out *into* the cross walk, and
get way over to the far left side of
the lane, in front of the stopped cars.
This is so that:
(a) the cars behind Many cyclists don't
you see you bother worrying about
(b) right-turning the right-turners: they
cars can get by. just sit tight over on
the right side, and if
A tad obnoxious, that bugs cars that
perhaps, but it's want to make a right,
reasonably effective. tough.
It's significantly less
obnoxious if you can
slip through a gap in Can't say I blame them
the cross-traffic and much: really the car
cross against the drivers don't want you
light. The drivers This will not, to be *anywhere*:
behind you are less however,
likely to feel like prevent them Don't be on the
you're holding them from grumbling right, don't be
up. about those on the left,
crazy cyclists. don't take the
lane, don't ride
A variation: some of the cars on the sidewalk.
are signaling right turns, so
you do a zig-zag between the
stopped cars to get to the left
side of the traffic without
cutting off the right-turners.
Another maneuver, which may be an
example of being too polite:
Personally, when I start moving,
I often veer to the right of the By the way: on average,
intersection to let the first car in urban traffic cars
behind me get by if it wants to. aren't really faster
then bikes, they just
But then you've got to look accelerate faster and (Hence,
over your shoulder, and edge spend more time waiting bike
back to the left quickly to: at the next light. messengers.)
(a) keep out of the door zone;
(b) keep the second car from Usually, I'm not *really*
running you off the road. doing them any favors
in letting them pass
This is a tricky one. me, I'm just making them
I don't know that I'd feel better.
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