STUDIES HAVE SHOWN THAT THE MAJORITY OF ACCIDENTS between motorists and cyclists are caused because the motorist “didn’t see the cyclist”. As preoccupied as motorists are these days, with all the non-driving activites that take place behind the wheel -- texting, talking on the phone, eating, reading the newspaper, flossing the teeth, removing rollers from the hair, brushing the hair, drinking a beer and reprimanding the children -- it’s no wonder that cyclists get knocked down, banged up or killed everyday.
Yes, I’ve seen every one of the activities mentioned above being done while the driver is, by law, supposed to be in control of his or her motor vehicle. Yes, I know that cyclist are not always innocent. I’ve seen many cyclists who refuse to follow the rules of the road, and many more that have adopted some very careless riding practices.
I don’t know.
It’s basically impossible to get all parties together and agree to do the right thing. But if you’re a cyclist and you want to remain as safe as you possibly can, RIDE BIG. And by that I mean to make yourself as visible as possible to motorists who are in your immediate area. Here are a few ways you can achieve this.
- Never ride in the gutter of a lane. You’re out of view, in the shadows, and probably rolling through all kinds of dangerous debris, grating and broken pavement. Additionally, it’s a position that leaves you little room for emergency maneuvers. If you’re riding in a bike lane, try to ride as close to the motor vehicle lane as practical.
- When on a narrow road, don’t be afraid to take the lane. Riding in the car lane,where a car’s right tire would go, is one of the best ways to be seen. You become the traffic and have lane control. It forces cars and trucks to pass you when it’s safe, and with a wide margin instead of trying to squeeze by in the same lane. You might get some negative comments from drivers, but at least they will know you’re there. (In the right lane in the U.S., or in the left lane in many European countries.)
- Take advantage of Sharrows by riding in the area designated by the Sharrows. I like Sharrows because they are immediately visible to both motor vehicle drivers and cyclists. There should be no confusion regarding the cyclist’s right to the road space. (Presumably they been placed correctly.)
- Wear bright or fluorescent or day-glo clothing. Bright yellows, oranges, reds and greens can be seen easier that most other colors. When I’m commuting in the early morning hours I often where a yellow jersey that is impregnated with reflective strands that shine brightly when headlights hit it.
- Be predictable. Behave like a car--one with a responsible driver behind the wheel! Ride with the traffic, not against it. Motor vehicle drivers don’t expect you to be coming from the wrong direction, or flying out of side streets or driveways without stopping. Ride in a straight line. No weaving or erratic riding.
- Reflectors on your bike, front and rear are very visible when lights are shown on them. Reflectors are often more easily visible, and can be seen from farther away than many electric lights. At night I also wear reflective ankle straps and reflective tape on the back of my helmet.
- A white headlight on the front and a red tail light on the rear of your bike are a must for night riding and even make you more visible in daylight. I use a bright red flashing tail light on every ride, day or night.
- Riding in a group makes you more visible to motor vehicle drivers. But get with a group that follows the rules of the road.
- When you’re in heavy traffic sit up tall in the saddle--RIDE BIG! You’ll be much more visible than if you’re in the drops or using aero bars.
Don’t be afraid of traffic or cower in the presence of motor vehicles. Ride big and ride proud, because you have every right to be using the roadway. These simple techniques will help to keep you visible to motorists when riding your bike. Obey the standard rules of the road, as any vehicle should, and you’ll have your best chance for finishing your ride without an accident.