Bicycle Safety

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If you’ve ever been on an ALC training ride, you’ll know: its always about safety. Annoyingly so. When I ride by myself I often run stop signs, even red lights if the traffic is clear, and I almost always listen to NPR on my commutes. I always make sure there is no on-coming traffic, but I know its risky. I wish I could say that I will try to get better, but clipping out every 5 minutes can be irritating and add so much time to the commute.

Knowing I’m not the safest rider, take these with a grain of salt, but here are some tips for the commuter and road rider:

  1. Always know exactly what is going on around you. Scan for traffic in all directions constantly.
  2. Prepare to clip out well before you approach an intersection. Panic clip outs can damage your bike — even if you don’t fall over, your bike might.
  3. ALWAYS give pedestrians the right of way, even if they are not where they are supposed to be.
  4. If there is a bike lane, use it, but stay to the left, away from the parked cars and watch for opening doors, wheels turning, a driver or passenger in the cabin — anything which might indicate that the bike lane will be impeded.
  5. If there is something in the bike lane, take the whole lane of traffic. Signal to the cars/riders behind you that you will be doing so by pointing into the lane of traffic you’re about to take, make sure there is plenty of room and you will not be moving into a car, then move to the center of the lane. (If there is a shoulder or very wide lanes, you can lane split with the car, but be careful. Center of the lane is better because you are more visible.)
  6. Never navigate to the right around debris or other obstructions (for me that’s usually trash cans) in the bike lane, even if there is no parked car. The right is blind, you don’t know what is behind the next parked car.
  7. Never pass another biker to the right. Never ever ever. It is disconcerting and can cause the other rider to veer into traffic while looking at you. NOT SAFE, ever. If you need to pass another rider, see (5): look, signal, look again, move to the center of the lane, pass, make sure you’re clear of the other rider, and move back into the bike lane.
  8. Where there are no bike lanes, you pretty much have to lane split — if you try to take the entire lane, cars will get pissed off at you: not a safe thing. To lane split with cars: use the shoulder if there is one. Stay on or just to the right of the white line, if safe. Signal well in advance if you have to move into the lane very much, then take the whole lane until you’ve passed whatever obstruction caused you do to it.
  9. Remember those hand signals you learned in drivers’ ed and use them. See chart, below. These are not the extent of useful hand signals. I add: pointing at the lane when I’m going to take it, waving at cars who might turn into me, and waving my hand over obstructions cyclists behind me can avoid.
  10. In addition to hand signals, when cycling with others, call out what you’re doing in a “loud, outside voice”: stopping, slowing, bump, etc. This will keep you from getting rear-ended by your friend who’s looking a the hot jogger instead of the road.
This is hardly an exhaustive list, so practice them and read about cycling safety here, here, and here (oh, just Google it, there are tons!).

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