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Old 07-29-09, 08:56 AM   #1
GulfCoastAmy
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Newbie safety question

This is probably a rediculous question to seasoned riders, but I'm asking anyway. Is it just as safe to walk/run my bike across a busy street than to ride? I try really hard to avoid heavy traffic when riding (I go out at 5am-ish and stick to neighborhood roads only) but in order to cover some new ground I would need to cross a couple busy roads (4 lanes). This totally freaks out the newbie in me and I would feel more comforable off the bike than on it while crossing, but I'm wondering if that's actually more dangerous? I would be crossing at a light.

Any insight?

Thanks!
Amy
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Old 07-29-09, 09:57 AM   #2
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If you're only crossing the busy road, look for a crosswalk. Sometimes, you need to if your bike doesn't trigger the light.
Alternatively, you can ride it. If you're waiting in line, take the lane. The motorist behind you shouldn't have any space to creep around you. you are in line. Once you start moving again, however, get to the right.
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Old 07-29-09, 10:03 AM   #3
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As a pedestrian starting on the corner, you have the disadvantage of having to cross the paths of right-turning traffic coming off of your street on your left.

As the driver of a bicycle, you can legally position yourself in the center of the lane or to the left of a right-turn-only lane, so that you can focus on traffic in front of you and be at much less risk of right hooks. You are also more visible to drivers coming from any direction.

If you do cross as a pedestrian, your crossing time will probably be longer than when pedaling, which can be a concern at very wide intersections with short green signals. However, if there is a pedestrian signal, that will provide adequate time for crossing on foot while pushing the bike.

What specific kind of conflict do you fear when crossing the street on a bike at a signalized intersection?
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Old 07-29-09, 10:20 AM   #4
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Originally Posted by FlatMaster View Post
If you're only crossing the busy road, look for a crosswalk. Sometimes, you need to if your bike doesn't trigger the light.
Alternatively, you can ride it. If you're waiting in line, take the lane. The motorist behind you shouldn't have any space to creep around you. you are in line. Once you start moving again, however, get to the right.
I disagree. Get through the intersection before you move back over. It seems minor, but intersections are fraught with danger and are not the place to give up control of the lane or risk being hidden from a left turner by a passing motor vehicle.

I would say that walking your bike across the crosswalk is certainly safer than riding it. Mostly because it ensures that you'll be going slow enough to allow motorists to adjust for you. Some people ride across crosswalks at full speed: That's a good way to not be seen.

My advice is to ride these main roads on the roadway. It's where you're supposed to be. It allows cars to see you and deal with you (rear enders are very rare, they seem scary but they're rare). On the sidewalk it's quite difficult for drivers turning into drives to see you and plan for you: You're likely to get hit by drivers coming in or exiting. Even drivers who seem to see you while exiting may gun it just as you ride in front of them: They were looking straight through you to the street.

I know it's scary. It was scary for me when I started as well. It's not so bad now.

The way to deal with phobias is supposedly to make frequent exposure with increasing perceived risk. So: Go ride some lesser main roads in the mornings. Work up to riding them when it's busier. Then work up to riding the really busy ones in the morning and later to riding them when it's busier. Don't feel bad for slowing a few people up: You didn't design the road that way and you're a legitimate user of it.

Don't let autos push you too far to the right of the lane. Riding to the right is great but you need to give yourself some room from the curb to adjust for road debris, problems with the road, and driver mistakes. I've found that if I ride too far to the right I get _less_ room when passed. Drivers try to squeeze by in a lane that's too narrow. So at that point I'm dealing with fright from passing motorists and fright from a curb that's a minor mistake away!

One rule of thumb is to be somewhere in the right tire track. That usually gives you 18 inches or more from the right edge.
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Old 07-29-09, 10:45 AM   #5
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Quote:
Originally Posted by GulfCoastAmy View Post
This is probably a rediculous question to seasoned riders, but I'm asking anyway. Is it just as safe to walk/run my bike across a busy street than to ride? I try really hard to avoid heavy traffic when riding (I go out at 5am-ish and stick to neighborhood roads only) but in order to cover some new ground I would need to cross a couple busy roads (4 lanes). This totally freaks out the newbie in me and I would feel more comforable off the bike than on it while crossing, but I'm wondering if that's actually more dangerous? I would be crossing at a light.

Any insight?

Thanks!
Amy
The question is completely fine!

For busy intersections, a fair number of people walk their bikes across at the crosswalk. Note that it may be illegal (and less safe) to ride in the crosswalk (it's legal to cross the crosswalk). I'd suggest not running!

If you are just starting out, it might be reasonable to get some experience riding in traffic before you try to "take the lane" (using the intersection like a car would) in the situation you describe.

You also might benefit from riding with more-experienced people and watch what they do.

With more experience riding in traffic (and more practice watching traffic), you will very-likely find that "taking the lane" is not a big deal. Cars really don't want to run you over but it does take experience and practice to deal with them.

Keep in mind that we don't know the specifics of the intersections you are talking about.

Last edited by njkayaker; 07-29-09 at 10:51 AM.
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Old 07-29-09, 12:20 PM   #6
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Thanks everyone. Unfortuantely these particular intersections don't have cross walks. I think my biggest fear is falling in the middle of the street because I am so nervous. Oy. I am faster on foot too. I am such a newbie that when I stop or first get on the bike and start peddling it takes me a few moments to get going (I'm sure it does not help that I'm riding an old mountain bike). It's great for neighborhood riding because I have to work harder (and I'm doing this for fitness) but it's not so great when I need to zip across a busy street.
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Old 07-29-09, 12:42 PM   #7
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To start faster and more confidently:

Prepare:

1. Stand straddling the frame. Squeeze the brakes to keep from moving.

2. Position the forward pedal for your first pedal stroke with the crank arm at about 45 degrees up from horizontal (45 degrees down from vertical).

3. Place your foot on that pedal.

When you want to go:

4. Stand up on the pedal as you release the brakes and remove your other foot from the ground. Your weight will accelerate you forward.

5. Place the other foot on the other pedal and be ready for your next pedal stroke.

You can sit down after steps 4 or 5, or later, depending on how much power you want to exert to accelerate.

Last edited by sggoodri; 07-29-09 at 12:53 PM.
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Old 07-29-09, 12:53 PM   #8
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Thanks so much! I am going to practice this until I can get it!

Quote:
To start faster and more confidently:

Prepare:

1. Stand straddling the frame.

2. Position the forward pedal for your first pedal stroke with the crank arm at about 45 degrees up from horizontal (45 degrees down from vertical).

3. Place your foot on that pedal.

When you want to go:

4. Stand up on the pedal and remove your other foot from the ground. Your weight will accelerate you forward.

5. Place the other foot on the other pedal and be ready for your next pedal stroke.

You can sit down after steps 4 or 5, or later, depending on how much power you want to exert to accelerate.
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Old 07-29-09, 12:56 PM   #9
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Originally Posted by GulfCoastAmy View Post
Thanks everyone. Unfortuantely these particular intersections don't have cross walks. I think my biggest fear is falling in the middle of the street because I am so nervous. Oy. I am faster on foot too. I am such a newbie that when I stop or first get on the bike and start peddling it takes me a few moments to get going (I'm sure it does not help that I'm riding an old mountain bike). It's great for neighborhood riding because I have to work harder (and I'm doing this for fitness) but it's not so great when I need to zip across a busy street.
Do you downshift before you stop? You can get going more quickly in a relatively low (i.e., easy to turn) gear.
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Old 07-29-09, 01:02 PM   #10
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Safer stopping:

0. Downshift (added after reading above - good point!)

1. Choose the foot you want to touch to the ground first. Rotate the pedals so the opposite foot is in the bottom of the pedal stroke.

2. As you brake and coast toward your stopping point, remove the top foot from the pedal and get ready to place it on the ground.

3. Just before you stop, turn the handlebars/bike away from the side of your loose foot. This will cause the bike to lean toward the foot that you have prepared to catch yourself.

Practice this until you can reliably achieve just enough lean to plant your intended foot on the ground decisively without any hopping or last-instant panic.
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Old 07-29-09, 01:49 PM   #11
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Quote:
Originally Posted by GulfCoastAmy View Post
This is probably a ridiculous question to seasoned riders, but I'm asking anyway. Is it just as safe to walk/run my bike across a busy street than to ride? I try really hard to avoid heavy traffic when riding (I go out at 5am-ish and stick to neighborhood roads only) but in order to cover some new ground I would need to cross a couple busy roads (4 lanes). This totally freaks out the newbie in me and I would feel more comfortable off the bike than on it while crossing, but I'm wondering if that's actually more dangerous? I would be crossing at a light.

Any insight?

Thanks!
Amy
Crossing at the light I presume that there is also a crosswalk at the intersection that you're crossing, correct? If that makes you feel safer I have no problem with it. As you gain experience you're comfort level will also rise.
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