Stay Safe out There!

We all signed the card for Dara this morning at the pool. Earlier in the week we found out that she was struck by a pickup truck while she was riding her bike and airlifted to Boston. Fortunately, her injuries aren’t critical, but—if what I’ve heard is correct—she did break some bones and is going to be recovering for a while.

(Ignore the one-sided bias in the article. And don’t bother reading the comments; they’ll just make you angry, even if you’re not a cyclist. But, Yay Dara! for looking like you’re in your mid-20s!)

My fellow drivers, here are some tips for coexisting with bicyclists on the road:

  • Share the road. It’s the law. You don’t have an exclusive right to the roadways.

  • We are not out here to inconvenience you. If you have a problem with making space for cyclists, you need to (re)learn some basic “how to get along with others” skills. Start with empathy and go from there. If you don’t know what I mean, imagine yourself, your spouse, or your child on that bike, and see if that doesn’t change what you’re thinking about doing.
  • Pay attention! Stop texting while driving. Get off the phone. LOOK AT THE ROAD!
  • Wait to make that turn. We’re going faster than you think. If you’re contemplating turning in front of us, you’ve already made your first mistake, because you’ll be unsafely cutting us off before you know it.
  • Slow down. Stop racing to get around us. When you see us and another vehicle approaching from the other direction, slow down and wait the 5-10 seconds it will take until you can safely pass us. 5-10 seconds. That’s it . . . honest.
  • Move over. The road is wider than you think, and there’s no rule that says you can’t cross the center line a bit to pass us. If your driver-side wheels aren’t on or over the yellow line, you haven’t moved over enough. If you don’t want to do this because of oncoming traffic, see the previous tip.
  • Don’t assume we’re going to give you the right of way. Cycling is hard business, and getting up to speed and maintaining it involves work. If we can avoid touching the brakes, we will. It’s your job to follow traffic laws, just like it’s our responsibility to do the same.
  • Don’t be a dick. This is what it all boils down to. Treat us like people you might know, not inconveniences. We might steal 20 seconds from your day, but is that worth causing someone harm. Be safe out there, for everyone’s sake.

My fellow cyclists, remember:

  • Be smart. Even though we have the right to share the road and have the same right-of-way privileges as cars, don’t assume drivers think we do. They have the better part of 1,000 pounds (or more) on us. Better to ride another day than to be “right” but squished.
  • Don’t run stop signs, stoplights, etc. Yield the right of way when it’s required. Don’t turn in front of cars. I know: stopping sucks, but we can’t make them accept/respect us if we don’t play by the same rules.
  • Don’t be an idiot. Avoid unsafe situations. There are intersections I avoid because they’re dangerous and/or I’ll be unreasonably slowing traffic. There are some narrow, curvy roads with too much traffic that I won’t go down even though I want to. It’s the way of the world; accept it.
  • Stay as far to the side as safely possible. If there’s a shoulder, you don’t have to ride on it, but it’s not a bad idea if it’s wide enough and free of rumble-strips and debris.
  • Hold a straight line and be predictable. Drivers always complain about “swerving, erratic cyclists.” Prove them wrong.
  • Signal your turns. Give plenty of notice. If you’ve come to a stop at a light, don’t be afraid to signal more than once. And forget about the American-style right hand turn signal; it’s for people driving broke-down cars and is just confusing for everyone else. Point in the direction your going. Turning left? Point left. Turning right? Point to the right with your right arm. Exiting a rotary? Point at the exit. (Finger guns optional.)
  • Make eye-contact at intersections. It lets the drivers know that you know that they know you’re there. It helps convert you from being part of the scenery into a less-likely-to-be-squished human.
  • Look around. Be aware. Plan ahead. Check behind you to see if cars are coming before you need to move farther into the traffic lane (or wait to go around an obstacle).
  • Don’t be a dick. We’re not entitled to anything more than anyone else on the road. It’s true that we have to deal with people who (unfortunately) would rather endanger us than wait a few moments for safety’s sake, but we should try not to respond in kind. I’m as guilty as anyone for gesturing or yelling at drivers or trying to chase down idiots, but really, it just makes them that much worse next time. If we cede the high ground, they’ll never need to take our complaints seriously. Save your venom for the truly egregious ass-hats.

Obviously I don’t know all the circumstances of Dara’s run-in with the truck, and these tips aren’t meant to imply that she or the driver is at fault. They’re just things I think about on a daily basis when I’m out riding.

Stay safe, readers. And get well soon, Dara!

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7 Responses to Stay Safe out There!

  1. Sara says:

    “The road is wider than you think, and there’s no rule that says you can’t cross the center line a bit to pass us.”

    Umm… actually there is. That’s kinda the point of the yellow line. Not that I advocate for hitting cyclists but I also don’t want to break the law.

  2. Jeff Mather says:

    Drivers are allowed to cross a solid yellow line to pass stopped vehicles, pedestrians, and very slow-moving vehicles. What you can’t do is pass a vehicle at speed when you have a yellow. Most states/commonwealths usually require that the driver slow to the same speed as the vehicle/bike being passed. This is always nice, but I won’t quibble. I’m not advocating that drivers break laws, drive in the oncoming lane for any extended period of time, or pass unsafely; it’s just worth noting that you can cross a yellow line if safety demands it.

    And, my own opinion here, I don’t mind anyone (safely) breaking the center line law to give a cyclist a little more space. Safety should be the main concern when exercising judgment. Common sense, people.

    It’s worth noting that you might have both single- and double-yellow lines where you live, and their rules may be different.

  3. mary says:

    i hope everything turns out okay for your friend – very scary!!

  4. StephenS says:

    Wow… wish I hadn’t read this until after my ride tomorrow. All are very good points. I wish you and everyone happy and safe riding!

  5. victoria says:

    These stories are awful. As a reporter, I covered them all the time. Way too often. I am insanely cautious any time I am on the road. I am aware of everything around me. I don’t wear headphones and I map my route before I take off. I also ride in certain parts of town (busy intersections and roadways) at certain parts of the day (not during rush hour). The comments on this post are similar to those I used to receive when I would write similar tragic articles. People simply don’t understand. If you don’t mind, may I steal your points for a post of my own? Credit, of course, given to you my friend!

  6. Jeff Mather says:

    Sure, steal anything you want from this.

  7. Pingback: Rules of the road

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