Friday, November 13, 2009

Survival on the road

I think I'd like to post up some safety tips here on the blog. It is an area that should be of interest to any and all cyclists. I will preface this subject by saying that I've been riding as an adult for forty years and have had no accidents with cars.

One thing I see more often than you would think is people riding on the wrong (left, sorry England) side of the road. If someone wants to live that dangerously, I can't stop them but it endangers, directly, other cyclists. Riding on the wrong side of the road includes cutting accross intersections in a way that puts you in a position of ending up riding on the left even for a short while as in "cutting the corner".

Sidewalks are not for riding bikes. I can't stress that enough. Many people feel safer on sidewalks because they are a little further from the car traffic. Close cars do not hurt you. The fact is that sidewalks put you out of the traffic pattern and at the same time put you in conflict with traffic at every driveway and intersection. Someone pulling into a driveway is not looking for zippy traffic on the sidewalk. Bicyclists riding on sidewalks who are hit by cars are legally at fault if they are hit.

Riding between lanes of traffic is sometimes required of bicyclists if we want to use the road to its fullest advantage. Making a left turn on a multi lane road will often require that to be done from a left turn lane. For those who are tentative in doing that kind of manuever, it is safer to use the crosswalks (walking the bike through them) than to be timid in traffic. I'll try to describe how to safely use a left turn lane.

When approaching the intersection you are going to turn left in, look back and assess traffic to choose the safest time to move into the left lane. If the traffic in your direction is stopped or stopping at the intersection, signal your intention of going left and matching the speed of the cars, use a gap to go over one lane at a time. You can safely and legally ride between moving cars if thier speed and yours are in the same ballpark. When you reach the left turn lane and have to wait do not do so from the center of the lane!

Sometimes you will be first in line. More often, there will be some cars already waiting in the left turn lane. I wait on the line. There is a practical reason for this. I squish easy. Many drivers are distracted and run into the backs of other cars waiting at intersections. Do not put yourself between those cars! Side to side, most drivers can control their cars and there are very few side swipes at intersections. Waiting between lanes is safer than being behind a car. When you start up to go through the intersection, maintain that line. In other words, do not pull into the path of the cars. They can go around you if they want. That is, assuming everybody maintains their lane position through the intersection. I position myself so that when I get to the intersecting road, in other words, when I'm through the intersection, I'm at the right side of that road. No lane changing needed to boogie on down the road.

One intersection I use a lot has a driveway to a restaurant very soon after I have finished traversing the intersection. I know car drivers sometimes panic when trying to turn into that driveway after the intersection so I always make sure to account for the possibility they may cut me off from behind. That involves listening, peripheral vision, intuition, and the everpresent evasive manuever up the sleeve. That is, I may need to turn into the driveway with them in order to avoid being under them.

Wow! I'm out of time. Gotta go to work. I'll continue this soon.