Bike Commuting Safety

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I am a pretty experienced cyclist, not in terms of races, but in terms of urban commuting. In addition to be an avid cyclist and triathlete, I bike commuted 30 miles a day thru dense and hostile urban traffic for 30 years. In my experience 99% of bike accidents are the cyclists fault, by the way, I have never had a bike accident in 40 years of cycling :)

Cyclists are too quick to blame their accidents on everything other than themselves. Yes, perhaps the car DID hit them but a prepared cyclist could have easily taken evasive action to avoid the accident. Here are the rules that have kept me alive and happy on hostile, crowded roads.

1) USE a rear view mirror! 90% of the time, the car that kills you will be behind you. Cars are faster that bikes, they run you over. If you cant see them, you cant avoid them! If you ride without a rearview mirror, its only a matter of time before you are run over by a car.

2) Assume that the cars are trying to kill you, its like a video game. They try to kill you, you try to avoid them. Cars WILL do stupid things. Cars WILL run red lights. Cars WILL cut you off. Just assume every car will do this and it wont surprise you. As the song says “one foot on the brake, one foot on the gas”, go fast but be prepared for stupidity.

3) Use a 2 watt blinding flashing tail-light in the daytime. It needs to be so bright that a texting driver will see it out of the corner of their eye and look up so they can avoid running you off the road.

4) act like a car, position yourself like a car, obey all rules of the road like a car. If you are not where cars expect traffic to be (like riding on the wrong side of the road) then you can expect to get hit. If a car is turning right, they only look left before pulling out.

5) wear a helmet

6) Know your surfaces. Wet pavement, sand, gravel or leaves and you better slow WAY down or any evasive action will flip you on your butt before you know what hit you.

7) Dont take chances in haste. It is very common in cycling to have to do some very time consuming and frustrating things to stay alive. For example, turning left at a light. If the speed limit is high (50mph+) and the traffic heavy, only a foolish cyclist tries to merge left thru cars going 50mph to get to the left turn lane. Yes, you should be able to signal and move left one lane at a time but you will very likely get rear ended by inattentive drivers. Just admit that life is not fair, get off your bike, and push the button to cross in the crosswalk twice. It might take 10 minutes to make a left turn that you should have been able to make in 30s but you are alive. The most dangerous situation is the on ramps and off ramps on a high speed road. It can take a bike 20-60 seconds to traverse one of these ramps and in that time you can get creamed. The problem is that few cars use turn signals. You might look back and see that no one behind you has their turn signal on so you figure its fine to traverse the off ramp, then pow, someone turns off without signaling and hits you at 60mph. This is the one type of road I avoid at all costs, one with high speed on ramps and off ramps.

In short, dont be afraid of biking – just be prepared!