Mixing Bikes and Cars Safely
I recently had 3 friends get hit by a car while riding their bikes so it prompted me to write this column to remind drivers and cyclists how to navigate the roads safely. I’m not blaming either group – I think we can all do better!
Minimize distractions. Be looking around you at all times while driving. Always assume there is someone in your blind spot.
When approaching a solo rider or group of cyclists, always go wide and provide the cyclist(s) a lot of room. It is surprising how many times a vehicle comes too close almost forcing a cyclist off the road. I have even been hit by a mirror and the driver was completely unaware. Even if you don’t hit the cyclist, the wind gusts caused by a fast moving vehicle is often enough to make your bike unstable. Also remember that sometimes there is a pothole or debris like glass that a cyclist has to maneuver around so give them a lot of room in the event they need to adjust their angle to avoid hitting something in their lane. Motorists should also know that cyclists cannot always hear you approaching from behind due to the wind or other sounds and passing too close can be very startling. These close encounters between a cyclist and a vehicle can cause severe injury and even death – and the vehicle always wins.
Delays Are Inevitable
As motorists, we’ve all been delayed for various reasons whether it was road construction, an accident or getting stuck behind an RV or motor home. Once you are able to get through that section or pass the vehicle that has been holding you up, it doesn’t give you the right to yell obscenities, throw things at the cause of the delay or try to push them off the road. Sadly, this happens often to cyclists when some angry motorist passes the cyclist that has caused them a delay. Delays of all sort are inevitable – be mature, responsible, safe and get over it.
Delays Are Better Than Death
If you approach a cyclist and it is not safe to pass, then wait for the opportunity to safely pass. You may be delayed by a few minutes but that is far better than living with the reality that you killed or seriously injured a mother, father, son, daughter or someone in your community just trying to live a healthy life. Try to imagine explaining to someone’s family that avoiding a couple minute delay was so important that it caused you to take their loved ones’ life early.
Be Careful and Alert
Always assume the driver does not see you. Until you see the white of their eyes and it is clear they acknowledge your existence, be ready to brake or adjust your direction. Be sure to stay out of drivers’ blind spots – especially at traffic lights and stop signs. Watch for parked cars and the dreaded opening door disaster when navigating around parked cars.
Always, always, always wear an approved helmet!
Make it very easy for motorists to see you during the day and night by having lights and reflector on the front and back of your bike.
Consider installing a mirror on your bike so you can always keep track of cars approaching you.
Cyclists wear brightly colored jerseys for a reason. Be bold and bright so vehicles see you coming!
Follow The Rules of The Road
Cyclists should always bike on the road in the same direction as traffic. Even though bikes lack a motor, they are considered road vehicles just like cars and trucks. Be sure to stop at red lights and stop signs and obey all traffic signs (one way street, yield etc) just as if you were in a vehicle. Be sure to know all arm signals and to signal when turning, slowing or stopping. And of course, don’t drink and drive while impaired!
Just like motorists, cyclists should avoid talking on the phone and/or texting while biking. Cyclists should not be wearing head phones so you can always hear vehicles approaching.
Stay in Your Lane
Ride in a straight line and avoid making erratic movements. Riding in a predictable fashion will make it easier for vehicles to navigate around you.
Ride Single File
If you ride two or three abreast, it makes it more difficult for vehicles to safely navigate around you. If you are riding side by side in a rural area, if you hear a vehicle approaching from behind you, immediately move to a single-file formation to allow them to safely pass.
Use Marked Bike Paths or Bike Lanes When They’re Available
If you can get away from vehicles and traffic, it’s always safer than risking the roads.
Choose The Path Less Traveled
When bike lanes and paths aren’t available, choose the roads with the least amount of traffic. Some roads are busier with little to no shoulder making it more dangerous for cyclists. Avoid these roadways as much as possible. Become aware of which roads going East/West and North/South that will provide you the safest routes and choose them whenever you can.
Hopefully, these tips will allow us all to safely get along on the roads while driving and/or biking.
Yours in health & fitness,
Note: As an avid Columbian reader, you can redeem a 2 week pass at her world-class training studio to help get you started. Contact 360.574.7292 for more details.
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