It could be me on the bike, part 2

There’s a couple of other points I wanted to add to my previous post. Rather than retrofit-edit the original post, I’m doing a ‘part 2’ here.

The two cyclists who were killed were racing cyclists, training with teams, one an Olympic hopeful. Usually I bag on racing cyclists: relatively obnoxious, they wear loud jerseys, buy overpriced bikes equipment, and don’t really obey the rules of the road, which reflects badly on all other utilitarian and casual cyclists. But I realised: two cyclists were killed on the road. It didn’t really matter what ‘type’ of cyclists they were: it could have just as easily been a weekend recreational rider, or someone biking on an errand that got hit. That’s why we all felt such a sense of solidarity.

Last posting: I talked a lot about asking motorists to make an effort to make it safer for cyclists. Cyclists also have a role in their own safety.

1) Obey the rules of the road. Be predictable. Signal to let drivers to know your intentions. Being a ‘polite’ rule-abiding cyclist will gain us all more respect. Take a street skills biking course (usually free. 4 hours of time well spent.)

2) Make yourself as visible as possible.
Anything and everything bright, lighted and reflective will increase your chances of being seen and noticed by drivers, who will then usually make a conscious effort to drive around you more safely. I frankly hate the fact that flourescent yellow-green jackets are so expensive, because the market for them is relatively small, and the sources are few. I wish more manufacturers and retailers sold them, so they could be cheaper and more widely used. Because they are effective.

But even if you can’t/won’t spring for a FYG jacket, there’s probably other items in your existing wardrobe you could wear while biking. Loud, bright colors for T-shirts, helmets, pants and shoes for daytime visibility (One reason why I wear a lot of ORANGE.) At night light-coloured jackets or even an XXL white T-shirt turned inside out over you helps other people see you in the dark. This is helpful advice even for pedestrians at night. For all the people who buy black or dark coloured jackets, because they’re more fashion-neutral to match their clothes or they don’t get dirty as easily: pah! Isn’t safety more important?
Clip on head and tail lights that run on batteries are helpful. (For pedestrians, a small flashlight.) Lights aren’t so much to enable you to see things as for others to be able to see you.

3) Bicyclists should assume the worst case scenario that motorists can’t see them, and ride defensively. Yield to cars, let them pass, rather than proceeding, thinking they’re going to stop for you. Especially when you see a motorist talking on their cell-phone. They’re functionally blind.

(Talking about cell-phones: I’m quite anal. I don’t answer my cell-phone when I’m driving. I’ll pull over to park and then call back. I also don’t answer cell-phones in places like the library. And I will tel my friends who call me when they’re driving that I’m going to hang up. Hands-free I will let slide, but it’s really not a good thing.)

A lot of my friends say “I’d bike more, but it’s so unsafe”. They totally buy into the save gas, more exercise, ‘green’ aspects. But safety conerns override all that. They have legitimate fears of the traffic, being hit by cars, etc. All I can say is “Take a street skills class; it’ll help you ride defensively and give you more confidence.” Which sounds a bit weak. I don’t know what I can really say to convince them that biking is not unsafe, and help them get over their fears and pre-conceived notions. There’s risks in biking, but then there’s risks in everything else, driving, riding a bus, walking, etc. It’s just a matter of how you manage the risk to minimize the chance of anything happening to you. You shouldn’t let fear from stopping you do things you’d like to do.

If more people biked, the greater numbers of cyclists could command more respect and awareness from others who drive, and gain more recognition in terms of providing better roads and paths for us to bike on, etc. Slow but steady change. You don’t have to bike all the time, but every trip you make by bike adds up and can make a difference.


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