As I was riding my bike home from work last week I witnessed a fellow cyclist get hit by a car. Now if you read enough cycling blogs you will get an impression that all such accidents are the fault of a careless or angry driver. While no doubt that is true most of the time, sometimes, just sometimes it is because of an idiot cyclist. This teenager was traveling at high speed on a busy downtown sidewalk. Upon arriving at a heavily trafficked and parked intersection she continued straight out into the road without breaking speed. Unfortunately for her, the car that was pulling up to make a right on red never saw her coming as she entered the roadway almost instantly (though fortunately for her the car was already slowing down to stop). A squeal of brakes and a loud crash later, I turned and saw her and the bike go flying. We can argue degrees of responsibility all day, but in the end this girl almost got herself killed because she was stupid. Plus she set back the legitimacy of all cyclists with her antics. Remember you are a vehicle just like a car and as such you should obey all traffic laws, so I present a short list of things a cyclist should keep in mind as to not be the cause of their own demise.
- Never ride on the sidewalk – cars aren’t looking for fast moving vehicles on them. This probably gets more people hit than anything else.
- Ride in the road WITH traffic. Would you drive your car in the wrong lane?
- Keep your lane. Anotherwords do not keep weaving around parked cars to be near the curb. The more predictable you are the more likely a driver will not be surprised by you. It it is way more safe than the few seconds on the curb will gain you.
- Give parked cars their space – getting doored is never fun and at speed itc an really do some damage (i.e. a driver opens their door in front of you).
- Use deliberate hand signals at intersections so all drivers know what you plan to do.
- Do not cut corners through parking lots or alleys. Unless you are a bike messenger on the clock, the few seconds you save are not worth your life.
- OBEY ALL TRAFFIC SIGNS – that means stop signs and lights as well.
- When in doubt always give the car the right of way – no matter how RIGHT you are you will lose that fight/collision.
All the above can basically be summed up by this: You are a vehicle too, the more you act like a driver of a vehicle (as to traffic laws), the more other drivers will treat you as such. It is amazing to me that people will drive like maniacs on their bikes and expect to be safe, yet they would never imagine doing that in their cars for fear of crashing. In this case predictability equals safety.
Drivers do not react well to surprises; they have too much information to manage with the driving, radio, cell phone,and talking with other passengers. Yeah, that shouldn’t be but it is reality. Maybe a collision with you will cure them of that, but is it worth your life?
And if you are like me riding the same route at the same time everyday, your fellow drivers will get used to seeing you and will watch for you. But if you abuse the social contract you have entered by riding like an idiot with no respect to the rules of the road we all should be using, then they will have no respect for you. They will learn to accept you are a maniac who is and unpreventable accident waiting to happen, and there will be nothing they can do to prevent it. Once they think that you are toast, because then they will do nothing to prevent it. The more respectful you are to the road, the more respectful they will be to you.
**BTW I do accept there are some asshat drivers out there who are a danger to cyclists regardless of how well they ride. For the most part I have had nothing but respect on my commute, only a few people have tarnished anotherwise perfect driving record of my community. Mostly it is idiots that think the extra half second they gain by speeding around me for a righthand turn is totally worth cutting me off.