There are some important things that you, as a cyclist, can do that will definitely decrease the chance of having a bike collision. A number of factors go into keeping you safe when you’re out riding, and I’d like to outline six of them here.
Something we can all do before starting a ride is to put on clothing we know will be easily visible to vehicle drivers. Be mindful of the fact that drivers are cruising down the road, thinking about a dozen things besides encountering bike riders. They’re deciding whether to turn, stop, change the radio, check on their kids in the back seat, take/make a phone call, or unwrap their fast food lunch.
High visibility clothing to me is fluorescent—two to three times more visible than normal colors—and bright yellow is my favorite. This applies to helmets as well as what you’re wearing. Visibility should include the legs and ankles and feet. Studies show that when you put a high visibility piece of clothing on your ankles, it’s the motion of your turning pedals that creates “biomotion.” That means the driver’s eye is drawn to you, sees where you are, and pays attention to where you’re going. I found a product at a running store that was a bright yellow high-compression stocking that goes from the ankle up to the mid-calf, which is terrific for added visibility.
Another factor to consider is using during daylight hours (as well as at night) a bright white, flashing light on the front of your bike and a bright red, pulsing, flashing light on the rear. This type of lighting significantly increases the odds of being seen by a driver.
2. Lane Position
If there are bike lanes, then naturally cyclists are required to ride inside them. But every cyclist has a responsibility to make a decision about the place on the road that’s safest at the time and under the current conditions.
Most roads in Florida are less than fourteen feet wide, so they don’t allow a vehicle to safely pass a cyclist while both occupy the lane. To most riders “taking the lane” means they ride off the curb in the right wheel indentation. On any such road cyclists have the right to take the lane. An informative website called “CyclingSavvy” recommends taking the lane by riding where the left tire leaves an indentation on the road.
By occupying the lane and moving closer to the center and even to the left, you are letting drivers realize they need to pass you by going into the adjacent lane. You are more visible in this position instead of hugging the curb. Also, putting yourself in a position to take the lane gives drivers a better opportunity to see you if they’re coming from the opposite direction or turning out from a side street or waiting to turn left ahead of you across your lane of traffic. It prevents drivers from attempting to squeeze by you too closely within the lane rather than waiting for the way to clear or moving into the adjacent lane. In summary, road position is a critical component of safety.
3. Signal Every Move
In terms of signaling while riding, it’s good to be proactive and demonstrative. Hand signals indicating that you’re slowing down, turning, stopping, or changing position are important when cycling solo or in a group. I will actually point to a position where I’m heading and tell the driver, “I’m going there, to the left.” Being as predictable as possible will help drivers avoid contact, making both parties safer. So be clear and timely and bold with your signaling.
4. Avoid Arterial Roads
Arterial roads are those that are moving high volumes of traffic, generally through commercial areas. They are usually multi-lane and higher-speed (35–45 mph). Sometimes they contain bike lanes, but the danger is still there because of the high density of commercial businesses and opportunities for cars to turn into or pull out of them. There are so many potential contact points between you and a driver trying to execute on of these turns on a busy arterial road. These factors increase the chance for collisions happening quickly and at higher speeds. Better to just avoid them. If you’d like more information on this topic, the “CyclingSavvy” website talks about ways to ride carefully on this type of road.
5. Never Assume a Driver Sees You
Even under the best of cycling conditions, never assume that a driver sees you. Miscommunication between a cyclist and driver is all too common. When I’m riding and a car pulls up to a side street, I try to make sure they stop. If they aren’t slowing down, I will slow down. When they stop, I watch the car wheel, the tires, and the hubcaps. Are they moving? Can I get the driver’s attention? Sometimes it’s a little bit more difficult to tell if the car itself is moving, but you can tell right away if the wheel is moving. Communicate clearly what you’re doing, and make sure the driver has seen you. It may sound a little over the top, but pointing is helpful.
6. Ride with a Mirror
Riding with a mirror is a good idea, especially if you’re on a group ride and need to see who’s coming up beside you. Statistically, the least likely way that you’re going to be hurt on your bike is by a car approaching from the rear. From the data standpoint, that’s really one of the lowest percentages of crashes that we see. Nevertheless, if you’re riding along and have a bus or commercial vehicle pass you suddenly on the left (especially if there’s a narrow space between you), it can be really disconcerting. You could potentially lose control of your bike for a few crucial seconds. An experienced biking friend of mine is a proponent of the notion that you can’t have too much information in terms of safety when cycling. He always rides with two mirrors, so that’s also an option to increase your safety.
So those are the six things that will definitely decrease the odds of you having a bike crash with injuries. If you do, however, get hurt on a bike or if you’re the passenger in an automobile or a driver involved in a crash, we’re here to assist you. Located in Clearwater, our firm represents cyclists across Florida. Call us a call if you have any questions.