Guest Blogger Alert! When a lawyer reaches out and offers to write a blog post for you about safe cycling, of course I said yes. Thanks for the cogent write-up! - Kelli
Top Do’s and Don’ts of Dangerous Cycling Situations
When you’re out on the road, it can be difficult in the moment to decide how you will handle a potentially dangerous situation. How do you avoid that car that just seemingly appears out of nowhere? Where do you go when you see that car turning directly in front of you? How do you avoid obstacles without swerving into traffic? How do you stay safe?
Before your next ride, try to prepare ahead of time by learning the top do’s and don’ts for the most hazardous cycling situations.
DON’T: Stall at the right of a car as you wait for the light to change. Not only does this keep you in the driver’s blind spot, but it can lead to a potential crash if they turn in front of (or into) your bicycle.
DO: Wait behind (not adjacent) to cars when you are in an intersection. This gives both you and other driver’s ample time to asses the situation.
DON’T: Assume that other drivers know you’re there, even when you’re riding through a crosswalk. Drivers on the other side of the street making left turns are especially prone to not seeing cyclists.
DO: Ride slowly around intersections. Try taking an earbud out or ditching the headphones altogether to be sure you are as alert as possible. Also, try to wear bright clothing during the day or reflective clothing at nighttime to make yourself as visible as possible to other drivers.
Unexpected Cars and Car Doors
DON’T: Hug the far right of the curb to stay entirely in your bike lane at all times. Especially when approaching hidden driveways or hard-to-see streets, this makes it difficult for your and other drivers to prepare.
DO: Play it safe and ride a bit further to the left than normal. This improves your line of sight and helps you see dangerous hidden drives before you ride through them. Also, look at a car’s wheels: If they’re turned toward you, the driver is likely about to pull out.
DON’T: Assume that parked cars are safe to ride by closely. Not only does this put you at risk for accidentally swerving into the car, but drivers may occasionally open their doors without seeing you, leading to a nasty crash.
DO: Regard even parked cars with caution. Try riding far enough away that even an open door would be too far to hit you. Even if this means riding in the car lane, it is better to be safe than sorry. The average car door is 5’ long, so if you ride 4’ away from parked cars, you should be safe.
Crosswalks and Sidewalks
DON’T: Ride against the flow of traffic. While it may seem safer to see oncoming cars, riding this way makes it difficult for cars that are turning to see you approaching a crosswalk. It also prevents you from turning right without dangerously crossing in front of other vehicles. And, in the majority of the United States, riding against the traffic flow is illegal anyway.
DO: Ride on the right side of the street, with the flow of traffic. This will keep both you and other drivers more aware of your presence. Just be sure not to cower to the right-hand side of the lane. This will allow motorists to assume they have plenty of space to pass you, when in actuality it’s nearly impossible to safely pass a cyclist in the same lane.
DON’T: Ride on the sidewalk. This limits your field of vision immensely and makes it difficult to see cars coming into crosswalks to turn. It also heightens your chance of riding hazards and limits maneuverability.
DO: Ride on the street. This allows you to move more freely and see your surroundings better. In a pinch, the sidewalk can be used, but this should never be your go-to riding lane.
Weather Hazards, Potholes, and Obstacles
DON’T: Ride without planning your route ahead of time, especially when there is potentially dangerous weather. This includes anything from blizzards decreasing visibility, to black ice making roads slick, to high winds increasing the chances of debris and tougher riding.
DO: Use GPS, map programs, and weather alerts to guide your route. The best way to tackle these situations is typically to avoid them altogether. If weather hazards are possible, consider taking another mode of transportation wherever you need to go. If using your bike is necessary, be sure to ride with appropriate attire and prepare proper gear (high-grip tires, headlights, non-slip bike grips, etc.)
DON’T: Act too suddenly or rashly when faced with a pothole, a fallen branch, a traffic cone, or other unexpected debris. While swerving to avoid these objects is likely your instinctual reaction, this can put you at high risk for a crash if there are cars close behind.
DO: Stop and walk your bike if there are too many unavoidable obstacles. If you know obstacles are coming, slowly correct your trajectory so you will be out of their way without suddenly swerving into traffic. If absolutely necessary, move to the sidewalk or swerve to the right to give yourself the lowest chance of a crash with other vehicles.
There is no way to avoid a careless motorist, but if you keep some simple safety tips and techniques in mind, you will significantly lower the chances of getting in a crash.
*This article was provided by Personal Injury Help and was not written by an attorney. You should consult your city’s local cycling ordinances to ensure you’re always riding legally!