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Old 10-09-05, 05:17 PM   #1
bullethead
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newbie ques. re: getting hit from behind

I've been surfing this site for a couple of months, maybe. I've started commuting and trying to get my bike and gear in order. I noticed several fatalities posted where it seems to me the cyclist was overtaken by a vehicle from the rear and struck from behind or the side and killed. I was looking at my bikes and how I carry my load and realized that there was no way I was going to get off the bike in a hurry if I saw no other escape route.I was even thinking of picking up a ladies frame to enable me to get off the bike in a hurry.My legs are really short, and with the big bucket on the back of my bike I have to really lean it over in order to mount it. On my last ride I was using a small mirror attached to my helmet, and realized that if a driver approached me at an average speed (approx. 30-40 mph) and was going to hit me, it would be all over before I knew it. I'm trying not to get myself overly worked up about it, but it is in my nature to minimize risk if possible. I wear tons of lights and reflective gear. I'm just not sure if the ability of being able to quickly exit a bike in danger is the correct approach to avoiding serious injury if overtaken from behind. Sorry this was so long... Thank you for any advice or input. Scott
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Old 10-09-05, 10:12 PM   #2
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You're probably not going to be able to do anything regardless. Luckily the overtake from the rear is one of the least common types of car-bike collision.
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Old 10-09-05, 10:24 PM   #3
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If you read about these from-behind collisions, the recurring theme is that the driver just didn't see the cyclist. So you're on the right track with doing whatever you can to be as conspicuous as possible on the road. Keep in mind that a lot of these accidents happen in daylight, so bright colors can be as important as reflectors. Anectdotally it seems that many of these accidents happen on roads that are nearly empty.

Also, keep in mind that cycling is quite safe -- something like 70 million participants and 700 deaths in a typical year. Of those deaths, somewhere between 2% and 10% are from behind, depending on who you believe. Either way, more people win the lottery or are hit by lightning.
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Old 10-09-05, 10:27 PM   #4
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Well, since you posted in A&S, a bunch of guys are going to give you all sorts of advice pertaining to VC. Sadly, when your number's up, your number's up. In the meantime, the best you can do is ride where you will be seen, and ride aware. It takes inattention on the part of the cyclist or the motorist for an accident to happen.
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Old 10-10-05, 04:43 AM   #5
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In addition to the "just didn't see" overtaking collisions that have been covered (lights and bright clothing and reflective gear, lots of it), the other category is the "didn't give enough room". I'm no expert, but I've seen it said that cars tend to give you as much room on your left as you give yourself on the right to the fog line; IE if you stay 3 feet to the left of the fog line, people tend to give you 3 feet to YOUR left. If you hug the fog line, people will pass you at 6 inches.

Most of my ride is rural, with 4 foot shoulders with no debris, and traffic going 3x faster than me, so I tend NOT to ride VC in those areas; I stay over in the shoulder. But when I'm in town with curbs and door zones, I certainly move out into the lane and make the cars wait for clear space to pass me. It's great to be courteous, but it's not OK to let people endanger your life so they can squeeze by 3 seconds sooner.
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Old 10-10-05, 05:41 AM   #6
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Most of my ride is rural, with 4 foot shoulders with no debris, and traffic going 3x faster than me, so I tend NOT to ride VC in those areas; I stay over in the shoulder.
That *is* VC - slow traffic keeps to the right, insofar as it is safe to do so. If you were driving a farm tractor, you'd do the exact same thing.
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Old 10-10-05, 07:43 AM   #7
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I've *been* hit from behind and lived to tell about it. The best thing I can say is the fitness you gain from riding will help you survive the impact ... and have health insurance. Other than that you're doing the right thing by wearing bright clothing, etc.

Good luck !

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Old 10-10-05, 08:46 AM   #8
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Bullethead,

Being hit from the rear is the big fear of a fairly inexperienced cyclist. You are obviously smart enough to realize that staring into a rear view mirror is not the answer. Literally hundreds of cars pass a cyclist on nearly every ride so how can the cyclist determine which car is going to hit him? Obviously, you probably can't. From the statistics, being hit by an overtaking vehicle is pretty rare. The most common car/vehicle collision is a low speed affair at an intersection or driveway. I would advise you to find a copy of Effective Cycling by Forester where he analyzes the kinds of accidents cyclists have and how to avoid them. It isn't fool proof but much of it makes sense.

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Old 10-10-05, 09:02 AM   #9
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I dont advocate every thign forester says and am not pro vc but if your intrested in reading what hes got to say (some of it i do agree with) heres a link for you http://johnforester.com base your choice to follow or dont follow his writing on your own experiance. Take what is obviously good for your area and use it and ignore or modify the rest to fit your own style and road conditions.
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Old 10-10-05, 10:27 AM   #10
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i would add that you are better off reading Forester's book, not his website. His book has a very good chapter which covers only technique, leaving the ideology and politics out of it. Read that, skip the rest of the book, and be wary about what is on his website.

Forester is one of the leaders in bike advocacy, but like all leaders, he has some extreme views. He does, however, have a great amount of experience which is worth tapping into, regardless of his views.
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Old 10-10-05, 11:05 AM   #11
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I have also been hit from behind. Just a tap, guy looking for an address. Do remember that this website covers the whole country and much of the whole world. The accidents reports you read here are for that big an area.

Be visible. Pick your roads if you can.

Don't be overly concerend about what is behind you. What is in front is what you can control better. Thinking back about close calls the 3 that had the greatest potential for serious injury for me were all road hazards going downhill (this at speed). One pothold I never saw that bent both rims. One section of raod (on a fireroad in the middle of nowhere) that looked like just rough road until I hit it and found it was gravel. Somehow I stayed up both times. I doubt any reasonable caution would have helped with either of these. (unreasonable caution, e.g. staying below 15 mph on all downhills would have helped of course). The third was construction on Sepulveda Pass. Big patches (e.g. 8' bu 20')poorly done, so the patch was between 1 and 2 inches lower than the pavement. I hit the side of this at an angle and almost went down. I was still regaining control when I hit the second patch. I thought there was no way I was staying up, but the second patch was flush and all was well (for me). About 45 minutes later a cyclist went down and was seriously injured. On this one there was something I could have done. Id I assumet that this kind of patch was not flush then I would have made sure to hit it square. Something I now do.


In short worry about the things you can do, like hazards in front of you and reasonable lane positions, not the things you have no control over.
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Old 10-10-05, 12:17 PM   #12
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Thanks to all for the input.
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