I recently took a class from our local Cascade Bicycle Club, called 'Urban Cycling Techniques' because I will soon be teaching it!
While I am a fairly confident cyclist, both in traffic and in a peloton (a group of riders in a race)-- I was curious to see if my assumptions about how to ride safely and effectively in traffic were well founded. Happily, I found my methods to not only be supported, but became well articulated. For me, the most helpful element of the class was learning how to best define and explain safe cycling to others. Here are some principles that I found to be the most useful:
- Cyclists fare best when the ride like and are treated like vehicles.
- Be PREDICTABLE.
- "Drive your bike." If you know how to drive a car in traffic, you know most of what you need to know to ride your bicycle in traffic.
Also, it was exciting to find that crash statistics are more encouraging than daunting-- because most crashes are avoidable! The stats:
- 50% of all crashes are falls, most due to road hazards.
- AVOID: pay attention to the road!
- 33% of all crashes involve animals, other bikes, or something that's not a motor vehicle.
- AVOID: ride predictably in a group, point out hazards. Use loud, low voice commands to discourage dogs.
- Only 17% of all crashes involve motor vehicles.
Now, within that 17%, here's how it breaks down:
- About half are the cyclist's fault, half are the motorist's fault-- all of these are avoidable by YOU!
- 14% CYCLIST FAULT, wrong-way riding.
- Ride with the traffic flow.
- 13% MOTORIST FAULT, left turn in front of bicyclist.
- Get a powerful front light so they see you. See: NiteRider, Light & Motion.
- 11% CYCLIST FAULT, left turn from the right side of the road.
- Use correct lane positioning. Drive your bike. Ride like a car.
- 11% MOTORIST FAULT, right turn in front of cyclist.
- Watch blinkers. Do everything you can to not pass cars on the right (this is one disadvantage/danger of bicycle lanes).
- 9% CYCLIST FAULT, failure to yield from driveway.
- Look both ways! Don't ride on the sidewalk.
- 8% CYCLIST FAULT, running a stop sign or signal.
- Follow traffic law!
- 8% MOTORIST FAULT, running a stop sign or signal.
- Even if the light is green, never assume that all cars have stopped.
- 7% MOTORIST FAULT, opening car door in the path of the cyclist.
- Another problem with many bike lanes. Ride 3 feet away from parked cars and scan the cars, looking for people inside.
- 6% MOTORIST FAULT, failure to yield from driveway.
- Don't ride on the sidewalk, drivers don't look for you here.
- 5% CYCLIST FAULT, swerving in front of a car.
- Don't be an obnoxious hipster.
- 3% MOTORIST FAULT, didn't see the cyclist.
- Be seen using lights, reflective tape, bright/bold clothing and safety triangles.
- So many new cyclists are afraid of being hit from behind-- but according to statistics, it is the LEAST of their worries!