Cycling is one of the safest ways to get from A to B. Not only do you reduce your environmental footprint, but it’s also a great form of exercise. Unfortunately, even the safest cyclist could be involved in a crash. There’s no way to prevent a careless motorist, but there are some techniques you can utilize to reduce your chances of getting involved in a crash.
Situation #1: Getting Doored
This is one of the most dangerous situations for any cyclist, as there is very little time to react quickly enough to get out of the way of the motorist, and if you do swerve out of the way of a door, you may go into oncoming traffic. How can you avoid this?
You must ride at least 4’ away from any parked cars that you think may be opening their doors. If you can touch the car’s mirror, you’re too close. Obvious culprits include a line of parked cars and taxis, but you should also be cautious around any cars parked in the middle of the street with their hazards on. It’s likely they’re stopping to pick up or drop off a passenger.
Don’t be tempted to ring your bike’s bell when approaching cars. It does nothing. If a motorist hears it (they won’t), they still won’t realize that you’re behind the car in time. Fortunately, the law is on your site: In nearly every state, motorists have an obligation to check to make sure the coast is clear before opening their car doors. If you break a bone due to their carelessness, it’ll be paid for by their insurance.
Situation #2: Busses & Trucks
This isn’t a situation per se, but it’s something to look out for. So, what can you do to avoid an incident with a bus? Never ride to the right of busses. They often pull to the side and make stops, so it’s easy for you to be sideswiped or forced onto the sidewalk, if you’re lucky.
Trucks and busses also have the issue of blind spots: They won’t see you approaching from the side as a motorist would. Finally: It’s not like our odds are great against cars, but a mash-up between a cyclist and a truck is even worse. Give them their space and stay far behind them to stay out of their blind spot.
Situation #3: The Left Cross
This collision occurs when you’re riding straight and a car turns left at an intersection. A cyclist is significantly smaller than a car, so motorists may not be as apt to see you as they would another vehicle. There are a few ways you can make yourself more visible to motorists so they won’t turn into you:
Dress appropriately and have the required reflectors and headlights on your bicycle at the very least. You can also add reflective stickers and decals to your helmet, which you should wear at all times!
Don’t pass anyone on the right. If you’re to the right of a car, another vehicle turning left will have no hope of seeing you.
Situation #4: Pedestrians
Much like trucks or busses, this is not a “situation,” itself, but pedestrians can cause a lot of trouble, especially if you live in a busy city. My commute home from work involves passing around 5,000 people, all trying to get to the major train station in the city. Pedestrians will peek out around a parked car, see there’s no other cars approaching, and step directly in front of me.
You should ride in the center of your lane whenever you’re in an area with heavy foot traffic. This way, if they “peek out” in front of cars, you won’t crash into them. If you do see someone stroll in front of you: Bells are a solid idea, and investing in a loud bell (such as a SpurCycle) may help you get your point across.
Situation #5: Potholes and Loose Gravel
As dangerous as motorists are, many crashes are caused by poor terrain or simply falling off your bike. Be sure to take note of your environment as you ride, which includes the ground as well as the other cars. Only ride roads you know well at night if you can, as it’ll be much harder to navigate. Finally, and it seems obvious, but you should only ride at a speed that’s safe for your ability. It’s possible to stay loose and ride through a monster pothole, but only if you’re riding at a safe speed.
A wealth of information, tips, and videos related to Smart Cycling can be found on the Ride Smart page on the League of American Bicyclists’ website.
This article was provided by www.personalinjury-law.com, an organization dedicated to providing the public with information about personal injury and safety information. Nothing in this article should be construed as legal advice, and it is intended for informational use only. Be sure to review your local cycling ordinances to ensure you ride safe and legally.