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Advocacy & Safety Cyclists should expect and demand safe accommodation on every public road, just as do all other users. Discuss your bicycle advocacy and safety concerns here.

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Old 05-20-08, 10:30 PM   #1
Ducky
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Tips to riding in traffic... with cars and stuff.

Well.. I have kind of a hard time getting into the road and riding with cars only a few inches away, so I been riding on the sidewalk, however most people dont check the sidewalks before pulling up... so, how do you ride on the street? like is it just a mental block or what?
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Old 05-20-08, 10:35 PM   #2
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I'd have a hard time riding with cars inches away too. You need to create space for yourself - you have every right to, and it's for your safety.

Check this out: http://www.bikexprt.com/streetsmarts/usa/index.htm .
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Old 05-20-08, 10:36 PM   #3
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Well.. I have kind of a hard time getting into the road and riding with cars only a few inches away, so I been riding on the sidewalk, however most people dont check the sidewalks before pulling up... so, how do you ride on the street? like is it just a mental block or what?
It must be, bikes are vehicles and have a right to the road. By marginalizing yourself to the sidewalk (which is illegal in many states) you may be putting yourself at more risk, not less.

You may want to check out The League of American Bicyclists website. I learned a lot about what my rights are as a cyclist from their information. Also, check for websites addressing cycling in your state.
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Old 05-20-08, 10:42 PM   #4
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Ride in a straight line.

Ride predictably.
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Old 05-21-08, 04:29 AM   #5
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Act like you belong on the street (which you do!). Be confident, always use your hand signals, and ride like no one sees you.
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Old 05-21-08, 06:02 AM   #6
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Get a mirror to start with. You can see what is coming behind you.
Asked your lbs about group rides in your area.
Join a ride and watch how they ride.
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Old 05-21-08, 07:00 AM   #7
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stay tro the right when you can take the lane when you cant.

If the is a nice sholder that doesnt have tooo much debris ride ther if you are at speed >25 MPH or thre is debris on the shordler or no sholder come out fromt eh right a few feet.

OBEY traffic laws. stop at lights.

check out the advocay and safety forum as well.
stay off the sidewalk thats for pedestians and kids on bikes.
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Old 05-21-08, 07:22 AM   #8
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Act like you belong on the street (which you do!). Be confident, always use your hand signals, and ride like no one sees you.
Because most of them don't see you.
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Old 05-21-08, 07:51 AM   #9
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It takes some getting used to, so don't be discouraged. You will find that many road situations are actually a lot more manageable than you initially thought.

Part of the problem might be that you are still getting used to the bike, and so trying to get used to traffic at the same time is overwhelming. I bet your comfort level with both will quickly go up.

There is no magical way to conquer traffic, but I find three things are helpful:

-whenever it is necessary, act like a car. If you need to turn left, then take the left lane very deliberately, for example.
-be predictable. There are horrible cyclists out there that just confuse the hell out of drivers. Don't be one of them.
-Keep your head up and make eye contact with the drivers around you. I make a point of swivelling my whole head around so that drivers can see me seeing them. This last one really seems to help alot. I find that I can almost control an intersection like a conductor simply by making a show of looking at every one.

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Old 05-21-08, 11:59 AM   #10
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For every negative story you read here, there are 2,000 good ones that don't get posted. Keep that in mind.

As everyone else has says, be deliberate and predictable. It is really easy and you will actually crave it!

Ride in the street twice and you will never want to ride on the sidewalk again.
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Old 05-21-08, 12:32 PM   #11
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The bike is a vehicle. You need to ride as if you are a slow moving vehicle. You ride with the traffic and follow the traffic laws.

It is intimidating learning to do this. It is also disconcerting having large vehicles pass close especially for new riders. But it isn't that hard.

I believe it is safer to ride on the street than on the sidewalk. Every driveway is an intersection on the sidewalk. It is easy for a car to turn into you or in front of you. A cyclist is going quite a bit faster on a sidewalk than the pedestrians which is what the motorist is expecting.
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Old 05-21-08, 01:04 PM   #12
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I definitely had a mental block before being comfortable riding in the street, and once I started it was very liberating. No longer did I worry about whether or not the car in the road was going to turn right and clip me crossing the street at the sidewalks, because I was in the road and not worrying about that. Better odds that the car would see me when I was in the road than on the sidewalk.

Additionally, many of the sidewalks around me are in much worse states of disrepair than any of the roads (which, if you lived in Michigan you'd realize just how bad they are).

One day I just did it. I found a time of day when traffic was lighter and a route where I could reasonably jump off the road and onto the sidewalk if need be. And I just went from there. Now, I rarely ride on the sidewalk except for a few very short sections of my commute where the sidewalks are wide enough (and designed) to accommodate pedestrians AND cyclists - this is on campus where many students travel to their classes via bike, so its expected that the sidewalks would accommodate both.

Another thing that helped me feel confident when riding in the road - a rear-view mirror. I personally have a mid-range helmet mounted mirror and despite being difficult to get used to and adjust for the first time, its been an amazing tool for seeing the vehicles behind you. It helps aid in your decision making process as to whether or not to take the lane, when you can merge over for turns, and when you should just bail and pull off until traffic clears again. I was buzzed twice at nearly 50mph, and it scared the crap out of me. Now, I see it coming, and can prepare myself for it.

It is something that just clicked for me, a mental block that had to be defeated but now I wouldn't ride any other way unless the circumstances drastically changed.
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Old 05-21-08, 04:04 PM   #13
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Be predictable; be visible; be friendly. Find out about the specific cycling laws in your area and obey them. Find routes that give you good visibility into turns, have wide curb lanes, and where the pavement is in decent condition (main routes often have TERRIBLE pavement, especially toward the curb!). If you are on one of said main routes, take the lane. There's another lane for cars to get around you, and it is safer for you to be away from the bad pavement. If you ride really far over to the right, cars will try to squeeze by, and if you hit a pothole right then - things could get bad. Everyone is happier and safer when you move away from the curb and make it clear to the drivers that they will have to go around you. (It doesn't occur to most drivers to do that if you're by the curb, but if you are further out they get it). The law is on your side on this one.
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Old 05-21-08, 07:06 PM   #14
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+1 on all the above advice.

I mostly ride rural roads (2-lane, 45-55mph PSL), and I've had good results from these two things:

a. If I can see that it's clearly unsafe for someone to pass me (e.g. opposite direction traffic), I signal that by putting my left arm out, slightly down, palm to the driver. As soon as the danger passes, I wave them by. Most seem to appreciate what I'm trying to do. Sometimes a driver seems reluctant to pass, and if I can see that it's safe, I'll slow down and wave them by. It seems like many drivers just don't know what to do around a cyclist, and these actions bring a sort of air of authority to the situation.

2. I find that I can speed up or slow down a bit so the pass happens on a straight piece of road. This keeps the drivers from trying to pass me on blind hills and curves (and they do). A mirror helps (so you can see the traffic well in advance), as does knowing the roads.
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Old 05-21-08, 07:10 PM   #15
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I feel you.

If cars are passing you inches away, they are probably squeezing past you in the narrow space you create for yourself.

Don't ride near the gutter, it's very dangerous.

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Old 05-21-08, 07:54 PM   #16
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ride like a car, or vehicular bicyle. you are not a pedestrian, you are not walking. you have every right, privilage, and responsibility to use the public road. take a lane.
riding with cars, and car drivers driving with you, is un nerving at first, but becomes second nature after you practice. use a helmet, mount rearview mirror, and drive/ride predictably, with traffic!
as traffic dwindles with gasoline at $4.00 a gallon, you may see other newer bicycle commuters and will need to share this knowledge!
let bf know how it feels to commute in traffic a few weeks from now!
look forward to your response!!
t
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Old 05-21-08, 09:32 PM   #17
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Before I road down a 6 lane road that was an extended 5 mile downhill slope at 20+ mph with the wind to my back in swiftly moving post work day traffic I was a lot more worried about it too. In fact I was nearly terrified for the first mile before I realized that the cars were really giving me all the space I needed and that I was really just a normal part of their commute home from work. I was actually in more danger of hitting the rider ahead of me than I was being hit by a car at that point. The point I'm trying to make is that its all relative. Right now it seems pretty scary because you havn't done it very much. The trick is to be confident and get through it the first time so that the next time seems easier. Then you'll have the confidence to do it again on a more daunting road.

That being said I had the joy of learning to interact with motor vehicles in Phoenix which I find to be a pretty bike friendly city. I'm about to start riding in rural Michigan and the hicks and hillbillys terrify me here. I basically have to start over and get used to riding on rural highways with semis and scary pickup drivers. I know that if I don't just go out and do it then I'll never do it. Like others have said I went out and purchased a mirror so that I have a little faster indicator of vehicles before they get right up behind me.

But for the love of all that is safe remember to signal! I hate it when cars don't do it and I hate it just as much when bikes don't. Just remember to observe all rules of the road (because you're not immune just because you're on a bike). Don't do anything that you're not completly comfortable with even if that means walking your bike for a little while. Most importantly have fun!

Last edited by SpaceNerd; 05-21-08 at 09:47 PM.
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Old 05-21-08, 09:51 PM   #18
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yes, you must be very visible.

Also, make sure to let your intentions be know well ahead (i.e. turning).

I ride my bike just like i do my motorcycle. I pick the center of the lane and always keep scanning ahead and behind (with my mirror on my helmet).

you need to be very defensive when riding.

JOE
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Old 05-22-08, 06:42 AM   #19
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when i ride with my kid on my tab i get LOTS of room.
OMG i am using my son as a human sheild
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Old 05-22-08, 07:15 AM   #20
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I must have a mental block too. When I get in my car and drive in the roadway, maintaining a speed that is below the speed limit (the speed limit is the MAXIMUM legal speed - right, I think that most drivers think that it is a minimum), I am passed closely by other cars, honked at, and generally intimidated. I think that it is because my car is so much bigger than my bicycle, and therefore is harder to pass than a bicycle which is in the center of the lane. Cars tend to impede traffic so much more than bicycles, it is so much better to just not drive a car and ride a bike!
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Old 05-22-08, 11:15 AM   #21
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I have been commuting for 2 weeks now. I try to do it everyday. In the last two weeks, I have gotten much better and I worry much less. Most of my ride is on streets with a bike lane or 4 lane roads where the right lane has mostly parked cars in it. This offers a nice "bike lane" to the left of the parked cars. I just have to watch for doors.

At first I was scared of cars zipping by me, but I have realized that if you dont do anything stupid, the cars will generally respect your space. Drivers of cars do not want to hit cyclists. I imagine that they get scared passing cyclists just as I do when I drive past them.

I dont have a mirror yet, but I have thought about getting one. I also think that cars like it when you turn your head to look at them. I think they are just as nervous about "sneaking" up on you as you are about them hitting you. I will probably still do the turn and look when I get a mirror.

There is one quarter mile section of my commute where there are parked cars and the lane is VERY small. Its a curvy downhill section with lots of people walking around so cars generally obey the speed limit (25 mph). During this section I take control of the lane and no one seems upset about it because I can crank down that thing at almost 30 MPH on my mountain bike. In fact, I think they generally get a kick out of it....at least I do!

be smart. be safe.
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Old 05-22-08, 11:40 AM   #22
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I find that a glass of scotch tends to make the margins just a bit wider and easier to navigate.
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Old 05-22-08, 05:16 PM   #23
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Another reason to follow all the rules is so that you don't give the drivers any excuse should something happen. "Really officer, how was I to know that bike was going to turn there?". Granted, it may be your word against theirs, but there just might be a reliable witness.
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Old 05-22-08, 08:19 PM   #24
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Originally Posted by nbac23 View Post
I have been commuting for 2 weeks now. I try to do it everyday. In the last two weeks, I have gotten much better and I worry much less. Most of my ride is on streets with a bike lane or 4 lane roads where the right lane has mostly parked cars in it. This offers a nice "bike lane" to the left of the parked cars. I just have to watch for doors.

At first I was scared of cars zipping by me, but I have realized that if you dont do anything stupid, the cars will generally respect your space. Drivers of cars do not want to hit cyclists. I imagine that they get scared passing cyclists just as I do when I drive past them.

I dont have a mirror yet, but I have thought about getting one. I also think that cars like it when you turn your head to look at them. I think they are just as nervous about "sneaking" up on you as you are about them hitting you. I will probably still do the turn and look when I get a mirror.

There is one quarter mile section of my commute where there are parked cars and the lane is VERY small. Its a curvy downhill section with lots of people walking around so cars generally obey the speed limit (25 mph). During this section I take control of the lane and no one seems upset about it because I can crank down that thing at almost 30 MPH on my mountain bike. In fact, I think they generally get a kick out of it....at least I do!

be smart. be safe.
I've noticed the same thing. I can hear the cars coming from quite a distance away so I know they are there and hold my line but many times they won't pass me until I turn and look at them. It will be interesting to see how that works out when I use my mirror in the coming weeks.
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Old 05-22-08, 08:31 PM   #25
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Glasses mounted mirror
When you look behind tilt your head forward as if you were kissing the tip of your shoulder - it is easier to ride a staight line than twisting your body around
Get used to bike handling on streets with less traffic
Some bike shops sell "FashFlags" which stick out from the side of your bike - cars give more space when passing
Do it - good luck!
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