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Friday, August 25, 2006

Riding Safely

Riding Safely

In light of the events this week in Covington, Indiana, I thought I would revisit riding safely. Sometimes, circumstances catch you with nowhere to go, like in the case of the 2 police officers killed on their ride. They had no possible escape route available, other than just being somewhere else at the time. This is NOT to say they shouldn't have been riding where they were. They were perfectly legal in their actions and had taken every possible precaution. As I said, sometimes you get caught with nowhere to go. My prayers for their family.

To maximize your safety,you should make yourself as visible as possible:

  • Bright, loud colors, flashing lights, anything you can do to attract the eye of the motorist you are sharing the road with.

  • Be predictable, don't do unexpected things, like suddenly darting out into the traffic lane. If you lose an argument with a motor vehicle, at the best, it's going to hurt.....a lot!

  • Ride in a legal manner, obey the traffic laws. Don't be running the lights or stop signs.

  • I realize it's not mandatory, but wear a helmet! The road is a lot harder than your head. You aren't 10 feet tall and bulletproof wearing that helmet, but it significantly reduces you risk of catastrophic brain injury.

  • Operate on the presumption that the other guy can't see you! Prepare for that fact and plan escape routes accordingly, always have a plan. Reducing the action/ decision chain speeds up your reaction to an emergency, and decreases your risk.

  • Ride with the traffic, not against it. You are traffic yourself, so ride accordingly. Riding against traffic also reduces the time for reaction on both sides of the equation.

  • Don't ride the sidewalk, motorists are not prepared for a cyclist to pop out into the crosswalk at speed. They aren't looking for you there. If you must use a crosswalk due to traffic conditions, or a light sensor that won't recognize a bike, then walk the bike.....with the walk signal. Don't bounce back and forth between pedestrian space and vehicle space in an unpredictable manner.

  • Avoid the “door zone” A motorist suddenly opening the door right in front of you can ruin your day! Try as best you can to avoid coming within three feet of a parked car and observe, if possible, if the vehicle is occupied. Be alert at all times!

I would also advise you to become familiar with your state laws regarding cycling. Knowing these laws can help you immeasurably as far as judging the risk of a route, legal or physical. Know your rights AND responsibilities to operate your bike. Cycling is great for health and fitness, but it's all a waste if you argue with that car and leave a corpse that used to be in pretty good shape!

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