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  1. #1
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    How long did it take you to get used to traffic?

    New to road cycling here. Ive mountain biked for a few years, but this new addiction has me shook every time a car comes whizzing past me. The courteous folks, the ones who slow down and move over don't bother me (I have noticed you can hear the difference as the approach you from behind). But, the cars who stay straight and don't slow down still makes me extremely nervous. Side note: I had a good friend struck by a car and killed a couple years ago, so that still resonates within me each time a car approaches.

    Any advice?

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    24-Speed Machine Chris516's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by jhc09 View Post
    New to road cycling here. Ive mountain biked for a few years, but this new addiction has me shook every time a car comes whizzing past me. The courteous folks, the ones who slow down and move over don't bother me (I have noticed you can hear the difference as the approach you from behind). But, the cars who stay straight and don't slow down still makes me extremely nervous. Side note: I had a good friend struck by a car and killed a couple years ago, so that still resonates within me each time a car approaches.

    Any advice?
    Ok-

    1. Before you go on the road, understand your skill level, pursuant to the speed limit of a given road
    2. Familiarize yourself with Alabama's Sec. 32-5A-(263, 281-285), and with the traffic code pursuant to the responsibility of motorists' i.e. minimum speed laws. In my state, on a 40mph road, the minimum speed is 30mph
    3. Respect what motorists' have to do on the road, while standing your ground as a cyclist.
    4. No 'ninja'(riding against the traffic flow) riding.
    5. Also, Familiarize yourself with Alabama's close pass law.

    To better explain what I am suggesting, go the minimum speed of the road you are on, that the traffic is allowed to go in the traffic code.
    Last edited by Chris516; 03-31-13 at 10:56 PM.

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    If a motorist can "stay straight" and pass you too closely, you have misread the situation. Either the lane is wide enough to share, in which case you should be far enough to the right that when a motorist holds his/her line you are not at risk (many will move over and give you extra room anyway), or the lane is not wide enough to share, in which case you should be relatively centered in the lane to such an extent that the only way for a motorist to pass you is to move over. Of course, if you are living amongst homicidal maniacs, someone might just run directly over you in cold blood. Years ago, I assumed no one would do this, but one does hear stories...

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    Ride further out to the left in the lane and take up more space; this forces all passing cars to fully change lanes to pass you instead of 'buzzing' you so closely. If they honk angrilly, it means they see you; which is a good sign since being visible reduces the chances of getting hit. big flashy tailights also help a lot.

  5. #5
    Long Distance Cyclist Machka's Avatar
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    I was 6 when I learned to ride a bicycle ... by 10 I was riding in some pretty heavy traffic. I don't remember the transition between riding in our cul-de-sac and riding in downtown and highway traffic.

  6. #6
    Bike rider alexaschwanden's Avatar
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    About a year, i mostly ride on trails.
    2013 Felt 960 MTB 1601.7 miles
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  7. #7
    Senior Member digibud's Avatar
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    My wife and I did a long tour very soon after buying our touring bikes many years ago. Knowing I was fairly ignorant I bought John Forester's book on effective cycling and read it and studied it. I taught me a great deal about situations that were counter intuitive in terms of what I had to do in order to cycle safely and gave me the confidence I needed to begin the trip. We also used big 4 or 5 foot wands with flags up high. I see them as overkill today but make no apologies for using them since we had kids we thought it best to return to...
    From my experience I would suggest that there is indeed a fair bit of knowledge one can get through books and online sources that will help give you a leg up on the dangers of multi-use paths, sidewalks, right turn lanes, and when to ride "in traffic" and how to do it safely. Again, it is not always intuitively obvious which is probably why cyclists get yelled at by people who think they should "get on the bike path" or something similar. Good luck. Oh...lastly...consider a mirror. Some love them, some don't but there's no question in my mind that they can be useful for many people.

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    It took me a couple of weeks, but I don't have too many close passes around here. Maybe 1-2 a month. Never had anyone yell or honk. While I will take the lane if needed, I do remember that I'm a lot slower than the cars and try my best to be courteous while staying safe. In other words, just because you can take the lane doesn't mean you should always be riding down the center.

    As far as mirrors go, I used one for a bit but found that it made me more nervous. Now I just rely on my ears and check behind me before making any lane changes or turns.

  9. #9
    Senior Member JonnyHK's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Chris516 View Post
    4. No 'ninja'(riding against the traffic flow) riding.
    Ninja is actually riding at night with no lights.

    What Chris meant to say was don't be a SALMON (ie swimming against the stream).

    Everything he said, plus:
    - good lights
    - hi-vis jacket
    - and practice baby, practice!

  10. #10
    Senior Member dynodonn's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by jhc09 View Post
    New to road cycling here. Ive mountain biked for a few years, but this new addiction has me shook every time a car comes whizzing past me. The courteous folks, the ones who slow down and move over don't bother me (I have noticed you can hear the difference as the approach you from behind). But, the cars who stay straight and don't slow down still makes me extremely nervous. Side note: I had a good friend struck by a car and killed a couple years ago, so that still resonates within me each time a car approaches.

    Any advice?

    I take it that you operate your bike without a mirror? If not, I've found that using a mirror can be an extremely beneficial tool when working traffic.

  11. #11
    genec genec's Avatar
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    I've been riding a bike for over 40 years, lived car free for seven years and have bike commuted for some 20 years or so on and off. I have also done long distance touring.

    You'd think after all that I would be fully immune to the sound of passing traffic... but that just ain't so... very fast traffic, passing very closely startles me. I don't like it. I have a mirror; I have used the mirror for years. But none the less, there are certain traffic situations in which passing traffic shakes me.

    I don't believe one can get used to all MV traffic.

    I do believe one can get quite used to most traffic sounds, and even exploit the sound of traffic to give indications of what is happening around you. You can become "one" with traffic and feel the cars and become quite comfortable in traffic that moves near your speed.

  12. #12
    Senior Member Looigi's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by JonnyHK View Post
    Ninja is actually riding at night with no lights.
    And/or wearing all black.

  13. #13
    24-Speed Machine Chris516's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by JonnyHK View Post
    Ninja is actually riding at night with no lights.

    What Chris meant to say was don't be a SALMON (ie swimming against the stream).

    Everything he said, plus:
    - good lights
    - hi-vis jacket
    - and practice baby, practice!
    Yes, You are right.....Salmon, not Ninja. No wonder I hate fish. I didn't get this right, lol

  14. #14
    Long Distance Cyclist Machka's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by dynodonn View Post
    I take it that you operate your bike without a mirror? If not, I've found that using a mirror can be an extremely beneficial tool when working traffic.
    Having a mirror doesn't mean you should stop using your ears.

  15. #15
    Long Distance Cyclist Machka's Avatar
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    And a tip that seems to have been missed here ... ride predictably. Ride in a straight line. Don't wander randomly all over the road. Signal your intentions. Follow the rules of the road.

    And ride politely.

    When you are a driver (of a motorised vehicle) and you encounter a cyclist ... what are the things you wish the cyclist would do? Well ... do those things when you ride. What are the things you admire about the cyclist? Well ... do those things when you ride.

  16. #16
    Transportation Cyclist turbo1889's Avatar
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    Most all of the above is good.

    On thing to add from my own experience at least on the kind of roads we have up here in Montana. You want to be either out of the main traffic lane to the right of the white fog line riding on the shoulder edge of the road or you want to be in the lane riding on the left edge of the right tire track worn into the pavement. You DO NOT want to be half way inbetween those two riding on the white line or just to the left of it. This is the "slicing zone". There is a phrase up here known as "Getting Sliced" which means a close pass so close that there is physical contact between the right side of the motor vehicle and its protrusions including (and especially) the right side mirror and the left side of the cyclist. A high speed sliding contact that can tear you up good. Stay out of the "slicing zone" and either be in the main traffic lane far enough that cars have to at least straddle the line to pass you or stay out of the main traffic lane and ride on the shoulder edge to the right of the white line far enough that no part of you is hanging out over the white line (your left elbow, left shoulder, or left end of the handlebars usually being your most left protrusion). Depending on road and traffic conditions pick one or the other and go with it until the situation changes sufficiently to change methods. Don't change back and forth rapidly between the two methods on the same road because it will make you erratic for other road users to judge your intentions.

    There are hardly any marked lanes up here that are wide enough to safely share, things might be a little different where there are. If you are in a similar situation where most if not all marked lanes are not wide enough for safe sharing then you would be wise to also adopt the rule of staying out of the "slicing zone" and be either in the lane or out of it and not half way inbetween.

  17. #17
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    Quote Originally Posted by Machka View Post
    And a tip that seems to have been missed here ... ride predictably. Ride in a straight line. Don't wander randomly all over the road. Signal your intentions. Follow the rules of the road.

    And ride politely.

    When you are a driver (of a motorised vehicle) and you encounter a cyclist ... what are the things you wish the cyclist would do? Well ... do those things when you ride. What are the things you admire about the cyclist? Well ... do those things when you ride.
    Unfortunately, for most people who are coming to cycling from an exclusively motorized experience, things break down here. Generally, motorists think cyclists should always make an effort to get out of their way. An inexperienced cyclist, channeling his/her motorist tendencies, will then ride too far right in a situation where the lane is not wide enough to share which is likely to result in an overly-close pass (or actual contact).

    Cyclists should do what is safe, which does not always coincide with what other road users want. I'm not arguing against being courteous, I look for turnouts on slow climbs and often pull out before I am overtaken, but I see far too many newbies riding the fog line in situations where that dramatically increases their odds of being hit and when I talk to them about it they seem to be under the impression that taking the lane is rude. Taking the lane when necessary isn't rude, it's the proper lane position. (I'm not saying that Machka agrees or disagrees with this, but her post could be interpreted in a way that works against safety.)

  18. #18
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    I began riding in traffic at 5 years old with neighborhood friends.

  19. #19
    Senior Member dynodonn's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Machka View Post
    Having a mirror doesn't mean you should stop using your ears.
    No it doesn't, but with an addition of a mirror, I can see a rear approaching motor vehicle long before I hear it, and see what the motorist is doing, especially if there is considerable back ground noise or wind roar.

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    Senior Member dynodonn's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by B. Carfree View Post

    .....Cyclists should do what is safe, which does not always coincide with what other road users want.
    +1

  21. #21
    vol
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    Quote Originally Posted by turbo1889 View Post
    or you want to be in the lane riding on the left edge of the right tire track worn into the pavement. You DO NOT want to be half way inbetween those two riding on the white line or just to the left of it.
    turbo1889, could you please clarify the blue parts? Sounds like this is something I should pay attention to. I ride on city streets (NYC), usually on the right part of the right-most lane, or left part of the left-most lane (if one-way street/avenue)--there is no such thing as shoulder on the city streets. In other words I try to be far away and not in the way of the vehicles when possible (but still some aggressive drivers gave me close calls, esp. taxis or box trucks). Is it consistent with or against what you were suggesting? (sorry the "into the pavement" and the "white line" (which?) confuse me. A picture would help.) Thanks.

  22. #22
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    Quote Originally Posted by turbo1889 View Post
    Most all of the above is good.

    On thing to add from my own experience at least on the kind of roads we have up here in Montana. You want to be either out of the main traffic lane to the right of the white fog line riding on the shoulder edge of the road or you want to be in the lane riding on the left edge of the right tire track worn into the pavement. You DO NOT want to be half way inbetween those two riding on the white line or just to the left of it. This is the "slicing zone". There is a phrase up here known as "Getting Sliced" which means a close pass so close that there is physical contact between the right side of the motor vehicle and its protrusions including (and especially) the right side mirror and the left side of the cyclist. A high speed sliding contact that can tear you up good. Stay out of the "slicing zone" and either be in the main traffic lane far enough that cars have to at least straddle the line to pass you or stay out of the main traffic lane and ride on the shoulder edge to the right of the white line far enough that no part of you is hanging out over the white line (your left elbow, left shoulder, or left end of the handlebars usually being your most left protrusion). Depending on road and traffic conditions pick one or the other and go with it until the situation changes sufficiently to change methods. Don't change back and forth rapidly between the two methods on the same road because it will make you erratic for other road users to judge your intentions.

    There are hardly any marked lanes up here that are wide enough to safely share, things might be a little different where there are. If you are in a similar situation where most if not all marked lanes are not wide enough for safe sharing then you would be wise to also adopt the rule of staying out of the "slicing zone" and be either in the lane or out of it and not half way inbetween.
    This zone you speak of is interesting. I think this may be my problem. On my daily to commute to campus, my first stretch out of my neighborhood is about 1.5 miles on a VERY busy two-lane road. They just repaved the road, originally adding about 2-3 ft of pavement to the right of the white line. That was nice to have, although I think the drivers tended to maintain their speed (55mph), due to me being outside the white lines. Well wouldnt you know, last week they added rumble strips along the entire length of the highway, completely preventing me from riding outside of the white line. I guess I thought I was to ride as close to the side of the road as possible. I may have to change that.

  23. #23
    Long Distance Cyclist Machka's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by dynodonn View Post
    No it doesn't, but with an addition of a mirror, I can see a rear approaching motor vehicle long before I hear it, and see what the motorist is doing, especially if there is considerable back ground noise or wind roar.
    And on many of the roads in this part of the world, we hear the motorised vehicles long before we can see them ... the roads here are often curvy or hilly so it can be hard to see what's going on behind.

  24. #24
    genec genec's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Machka View Post
    And on many of the roads in this part of the world, we hear the motorised vehicles long before we can see them ... the roads here are often curvy or hilly so it can be hard to see what's going on behind.
    On many roads in this part of the world the traffic so heavy you can't tell if the sound you hear is from right next to you or from the vehicles further away and closing, it all mixes into a general cacophony of loud sound with the occasional even louder hard acceleration. Cyclists in this part of the world get to "share" the road with 50MPH+ moving motor vehicles whose drivers are distracted by cell phones, conversations, radio and other entertainment and various beverages. Cyclists must look forward to avoid hooking motorists while also watching rearward for swerving motorists. Your senses are filled with confusion and decisions may require split second timing to avoid bodily injury.

    But hey, that's what it's like to bike commute on fast, heavy traffic arterial roads in So Cal.

  25. #25
    Transportation Cyclist turbo1889's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by vol View Post
    turbo1889, could you please clarify the blue parts? Sounds like this is something I should pay attention to. I ride on city streets (NYC), usually on the right part of the right-most lane, or left part of the left-most lane (if one-way street/avenue)--there is no such thing as shoulder on the city streets. In other words I try to be far away and not in the way of the vehicles when possible (but still some aggressive drivers gave me close calls, esp. taxis or box trucks). Is it consistent with or against what you were suggesting? (sorry the "into the pavement" and the "white line" (which?) confuse me. A picture would help.) Thanks.
    Quote Originally Posted by jhc09 View Post
    This zone you speak of is interesting. I think this may be my problem. On my daily to commute to campus, my first stretch out of my neighborhood is about 1.5 miles on a VERY busy two-lane road. They just repaved the road, originally adding about 2-3 ft of pavement to the right of the white line. That was nice to have, although I think the drivers tended to maintain their speed (55mph), due to me being outside the white lines. Well wouldnt you know, last week they added rumble strips along the entire length of the highway, completely preventing me from riding outside of the white line. I guess I thought I was to ride as close to the side of the road as possible. I may have to change that.
    Okay after scowering the net for diagrams and photo's and doing some work in MS-paint this is the best way I can explain it:



    Riding in a Narrow Lane vs. Sharing a Wide Lane:



    Riding in a Narrow Lane:



    Sharing a Wide Lane (Minimum Acceptable Width for Sharing):



    IN, OUT, & SLICE ZONE:





    Examples:





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