Safety on a bicycle is YOUR responsibility
Safety? On a bicycle? Commentators this week have been making lots of noise about bicycles and safety and the needless waste of human life when a cyclist dies. This week there were 5 deaths.
We think a lot about safety, because we have had just about every sort of bike accident there is. And these days, we prefer to prevent another bike accident, and definitely we think hard about not being the cause of a bike accident.
As a cyclist we want safe roads, cautious car drivers, and evidence of brain activity in other cyclists. None of these things exist 24/7. Sometimes these things don't exist at all. We were at the SAAQ to replace a drivers license this week, and beside us was a young man who was complaining about failing the test because he has a big blind spot in his vision that he didn't think should stop him from getting his drivers license. We are not making this up! Be afraid people, be very afraid.
So here are some of our suggestions for safer cycling, and these are all things that you the cyclist can do to increase the chance you will safely complete a bicycle ride in one piece.
- learn and practice safe cycling technique.
- Learn to ride defensively.
- Learn the basic "rules of the road."
- Obey the road rules.
- Learn what stop signs and red lights at intersections are for.
- Don't ride stupidly (see previous item).
- Be predictable in your riding on streets.(see previous item)
- Signal turns when on your bike.
- Use a bell to warn others when you pass them.
- Remember: the road rules do apply to you.
- Don't cause traffic chaos.
- Ride on the right side of the road.
- On urban street bike-path, follow the side that has the arrows in your direction of travel
- Get a mirror.
- Get a bell. (really, get a damn bell and use it!)
- Get a bell - this goes to racer wannabees who whiz past everyone at high speed.
- Don't go the wrong way down the road or street.
- Don't ever ride at night without a front (white) and rear (red) light.
- The more ugly reflective gear you wear at night the safer you will be.
- Night riding is hugely more dangerous than day riding, be aware and ride twice as safe.
- Don't ever ride on the sidewalk. (never, never, never!)
- Wear high visibility cycling jersey and jacket.
- Use a flashing strobe tail light, even in daylight.
- Make sure your bikes brakes are functioning properly.
- Stop at lights and stop signs. (at least look around and be ready to stop!)
- Be paranoid.
- Don't cause road rage.
- Don't wear headphones, hearing other vehicles is an elementary safety technique.
- Send your kids to a bike-safety event
- Signal to others when you pass them, say "Hello," say "On your left," or ring a bell. (or all three)
- Avoid busy intersections and streets - there are usually safer routes, or take an "L" corner.
- Ride maximum two-person wide in group cycling
- When riding in a group, signal obstacles to those behind you
- Ride single file when encountering cars - in both directions.
- Don't cross the line in the middle of the road or bike path.
- Report road safety problems to 311. Report dangerous drivers to 911.
- Use a bell.
- Signal your turns.
- Learn to ride the white line on the edge of the road like your life depends on it (it does)
- When a car approaches from the front, move over because you may not hear the car coming from your back at the same time
- learn to listen for cars coming from the back
A short note about riding in a group. We have seen the absolute worst riding in cycling groups. Cycling clubs are not effectively managing group-riding safety. Sure, some do, some make riders take a pace-line course, but when ever we see a group riding out in the country, it's a chaotic assortment of people riding on every part of the road and basically being a danger to themselves and other users of the road. As the group number goes up, the amount of safety goes down. Each rider is responsible for his or her safety, but the larger the group, the less this seems to factor in to the individual rider behavior.
Did we mention we love how well our LOUD bike bell lets people know to watch out, that a bicycle is coming or about to pass them? It's like a magic power. We love our bell. We don't love our flourogreen jacket quite as much, but we know it forces car drivers to see us. And after some episodes where the car driver didn't see us, we appreciate greater safety.
We know that there will always be a certain proportion of people who are complete idiots, be they cyclists, car drivers, pedestrians, politicians, and especially letters-to-the-editor writers, but you can take responsibility to make your own bike riding safer. We hope this is important enough to you to consider modifying any unsafe riding behavior, because you don't want to become one of this years Quebec cycling deaths.
Last year we tried stopping at more stop signs and red lights. Now we find it hard not to stop! And if you want exercise and training, accelerating from a stop is much more exercise than just riding through - and it builds power! The point we would like to make is that to prevent accidents, you must make your default action (the one that is the automatic response) the safest one. This takes some mental training. This is as important as physical training. For example, "always prepare to stop at an intersection, and then you can go if there are no cars" is a lot safer than "riding though on the power and head down ignoring everyone else and only stopping at the last second if there is a car with the right of way." (and even then... some cyclists just go through anyway) This goes double if you have headphones on, are habitually mellowed-out, or always wearing all-black clothes at nighttime (or all three).
Please go here for more information on bicycle safety. And get a bell.