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  1. #1
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    Riding in populated areas

    Hey everyone. I grew up in a small town of maybe 2,500 people so I'm unsure how to go about riding in a more densely populated area. I have moved to the metro area of Atlanta in the past year and because of it I've had a fear of riding my bike. I ride a motorcycle every day so I understand the concept of situational awareness and knowing that everyone is trying to kill me but I haven't tried to do it on my bicycle yet.

    Because of my lack of physical activity (it's hard to get physical activity in when there's nothing to do...) I have packed on way too much weight and am extremely irritated with myself. I am posting this thread to ask about how I should go about riding safely in a densely populated area.

    My current bicycle isn't a road bike but a modified mountain bike to a type of hybrid. I've put bar ends and 1.5" tires on it to make it more viable for street riding if this helps at all.

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    Galveston County Texas 10 Wheels's Avatar
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    Bright tail lights/ headlights that work for day riding.

    Light Horn.jpg

    [SIZE=1][B]What I like about Texas[/B]
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PGukLuXzH1E

    Set F1re To The Ra1n ( NY Night Rain Ride)
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    +1 on the lights. I use a blinky headline during daylight hours and have two blinky tail lights.

    On top of that, I have a whistle (like a ref would use) hanging from my helmet. When I'm in traffic, the whistle is in my teeth ready to be blown. It's loud, gets attention and does not require moving my hands. By riding defensively, I rarely have to use it, but when I do, it works.

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    Senior Member CommuteCommando's Avatar
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    Bikes and cycles have a lot in common. The one big way they differ is speed. My approach to urban riding starts with route selection. My morning commute is five miles of bike lanes/MUP ,as opposed to a shorter, four mile route that takes me along a busy 50 mph street with sections with no shoulder.

    I sometimes turn left from left turn pockets, sometimes I cross the street , then cross again. It depends on the situation. Take it slow and do thing you are comfortable doing. Follow the rules that cars use, except for those cases where the speed difference makes doing so a bad idea. Avoid riding on sidewalks. They are much more dangerous than many realize. There are some situations where there is no other good choice but the side walk, so do it, but go slow and be very alert.
    Freedom is free. It's included in democracy. Democracy is hard. It involves dealing rationally with people you disagree with.

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    incazzare. lostarchitect's Avatar
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    Hey man, I also went from a motorcycle to a bicycle in urban areas (LA and NYC).

    I second the recommendation for good, bright lights, front and rear. I also wear a visibility harness thing like this. I don't know about Atlanta, but here in NYC I find pedestrians are actually more of a danger than cars. They step off the curb without looking all the time. I recommend a good, loud bell. I use one of the old school crane bells like this. It works very well. Good luck!
    1964 JRJ (Bob Jackson) San Remo Plus, 1989 Trek 520, 2000ish Colian (Colin Laing), 2013 Velo Orange Pass Hunter

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    Just pretend you're on a really slow motorcycle and you should be fine. Visibility is key: ride away from the curb, wear brightly-colored/reflective clothing, and be predictable.

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    What about if I want to go on a ride with my fiancee? She doesn't ride a motorcycle so she doesn't have the experience or situational awareness that she needs. Should I keep her in front of me? Next to me? Behind me? Should I just leave her at home and find a trail to ride on with her?

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    Senior Member CommuteCommando's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by skcuf View Post
    What about if I want to go on a ride with my fiancee? She doesn't ride a motorcycle so she doesn't have the experience or situational awareness that she needs. Should I keep her in front of me? Next to me? Behind me? Should I just leave her at home and find a trail to ride on with her?
    Start her out on MUP's and get her comfortable handling the bike, then tackle traffic.
    Freedom is free. It's included in democracy. Democracy is hard. It involves dealing rationally with people you disagree with.

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    You and your fiancee should consider taking a League of American Bicyclists Bike Safety Course.

    http://www.bikeleague.org/content/take-class

    The traffic skills 101 class will provide all the skills and strategies you will need to ride safely on heavily traveled roads.

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    TBH to those of you who live in the cities...you're doing it wrong. People aren't supposed to live on top of each other and it shows every day. Thank you for the tips. I think I'll leave the lady at home. Seems to be more effort than it's worth to take her on the street. It's only a mile or two to the trail so I'll just load the bikes on the car for that.

    Also, what is an MUP?

    And do those traffic skills classes cost money or are they free?

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    Senior Member CommuteCommando's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by jerseyJim View Post
    You and your fiancee should consider taking a League of American Bicyclists Bike Safety Course.

    http://www.bikeleague.org/content/take-class

    The traffic skills 101 class will provide all the skills and strategies you will need to ride safely on heavily traveled roads.
    +1 I took one, and it was well worth it.

    EDIT Class I took was taught by this guy. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pete_Penseyres
    Last edited by CommuteCommando; 07-19-13 at 12:40 PM.
    Freedom is free. It's included in democracy. Democracy is hard. It involves dealing rationally with people you disagree with.

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    Quote Originally Posted by skcuf View Post
    What about if I want to go on a ride with my fiancee? She doesn't ride a motorcycle so she doesn't have the experience or situational awareness that she needs. Should I keep her in front of me? Next to me? Behind me? Should I just leave her at home and find a trail to ride on with her?
    I'd start her out on trails if she's not comfortable on a bicycle. If she is, then keep her in front of you and ride a bit farther out into the lane. It sounds like you would both benefit from a course in road cycling.

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    You also may benefit from a beginner's group ride. I'm not in Atlanta, but this one is one in Atlanta that looks to fit what I mean.

    https://www.google.com/calendar/rend...rue&output=xml

    My local club, to do more than one ride, you do have to become a member, for insurance purposes. The Atlanta Bicycle Coalition may have a similar policy.

  14. #14
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    Quote Originally Posted by skcuf View Post
    Also, what is an MUP?
    Multi Use Path
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    Sure it works in practice, but will it work in theory.

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    incazzare. lostarchitect's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by skcuf View Post
    TBH to those of you who live in the cities...you're doing it wrong. People aren't supposed to live on top of each other and it shows every day.

    Urban living is far more efficient and "green" than suburban living ever could be. If you don't like cities--don't go to them, maybe?
    1964 JRJ (Bob Jackson) San Remo Plus, 1989 Trek 520, 2000ish Colian (Colin Laing), 2013 Velo Orange Pass Hunter

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    Senior Member alhedges's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by lostarchitect View Post
    Urban living is far more efficient and "green" than suburban living ever could be. If you don't like cities--don't go to them, maybe?
    I think he's counting suburban Atlanta as urban. Which, compared to a town of 2,500, it most likely is - I can't imagine living in a place that small - it's 1/20th the size of the small town I grew up in.

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    Quote Originally Posted by spivonious View Post
    Just pretend you're on a really slow motorcycle and you should be fine. Visibility is key: ride away from the curb, wear brightly-colored/reflective clothing, and be predictable.
    Ride away from the curb? what kind of advice is this?

  18. #18
    Senior Member gcottay's Avatar
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    +1 on the LAB course.

    While you are waiting for the next one in your area this Bike Safe site will provide some useful information.

    http://bicyclesafe.com/
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  19. #19
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    Quote Originally Posted by skcuf View Post
    Hey everyone. I grew up in a small town of maybe 2,500 people so I'm unsure how to go about riding in a more densely populated area. I have moved to the metro area of Atlanta in the past year and because of it I've had a fear of riding my bike. I ride a motorcycle every day so I understand the concept of situational awareness and knowing that everyone is trying to kill me but I haven't tried to do it on my bicycle yet.

    Because of my lack of physical activity (it's hard to get physical activity in when there's nothing to do...) I have packed on way too much weight and am extremely irritated with myself. I am posting this thread to ask about how I should go about riding safely in a densely populated area.

    My current bicycle isn't a road bike but a modified mountain bike to a type of hybrid. I've put bar ends and 1.5" tires on it to make it more viable for street riding if this helps at all.
    Are you referring to moving to a apartment/condo in downtown, or a in a house in the suburbs? My aunt n' (ex)uncle lived on Oldfield Rd. for ten years, then they moved to the upscale neighborhood along West Wesley Ridge. That was twenty years ago, but to give you an idea of the traffic as to the location of the neighborhoods. Or are you in a more congested neighborhood in the city?

  20. #20
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    Quote Originally Posted by howeeee View Post
    Ride away from the curb? what kind of advice is this?
    When you ride farther out in the lane, cars can see you more easily. Obviously you're not going to ride in the center of the lane on a 40mph road, but for city blocks, i.e. urban riding, it makes total sense.

  21. #21
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    I live and ride daily just outside NYC, so I'm very used to riding in traffic.

    IMO some key things to riding safely in denser areas, both of which were mentioned, are visibility and route selection,and also lane placement.

    Though I'll ride them when necessary, I avoid main corridors, especially 4 lane and divided routes which many drivers treat like a freeway. When planning routes I rank them as follows, safest to less safe.

    1- one way street
    2- wider 2 lane roads without parking on my side
    3- wider 2 lanes with parking
    4 -4 lane roads with the right lane wider than the other, and without parking
    5- 4 land road that have frequent intersections and lights to remind drivers that this is an urban area

    Least favorites are any 4 lane roads that encourage higher speeds, and/or of a design that drivers are tempted to pass without changing lands, especially if there's parking where I can become trapped in the door lane.

    As for visibility, that's obvious, lights help even in daytime, but bright clothing is just as important, along with reflectors. At night I prefer darker streets where my lights stand out more in contrast vs. busier lit streets where I can disappear in the visual clutter, especially at dusk whrre there's the least visual contrast.

    Lane placement is also key. I prefer to ride in a share the road mentality, so I rarely take the lane, and I'll move over when there's room to pass. However I don't right the right edge as many do because that seems to encourage unsafe passing. My perfered place on the road is to the right of the center of the right lane or 3-4 feet in from the edge of the road. That puts me in driver's line of sight, yet gives me room to be a good guy and make room to pass when I feel it's safe.
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  22. #22
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    As far as riding with an inexperienced rider and getting them used to riding on the road with traffic:

    The very first, and very important step needs to be the "Big Talk", and that can only be done once the pupil is ready to actually learn. When it comes to inexperience riders who have absorbed the car culture norm propaganda it is dangerous and ill advised to ride with them until they are actually ready to learn and are willing to actually listen to what you have to say. Until then riding with them can only be counter-productive at best and potentially fatal at worst. When the student is ready then the teacher may appear but not until then. When they are ready for it the "Big Talk" is at least an hour session complete with pictures and videos of the various dangerous and the do's and don'ts of riding a bike on the road and most importantly the "Why" behind those to provide the appropriate initial indoctrination and dispelling or at least the bringing into question the many dangerous assumptions most inexperienced riders start out with as impressed upon them by the car cultural norm. This cannot be a dry and boring lecture but must be a stimulating and interesting presentation that peaks and holds their interest.

    This "Big Talk" at the beginning needs to cover the most important points. Such As ~ Don't be a "Kamikaze" cyclist, Don't be a "Salmon" cyclist, Don't be a "Night Ninja" cyclist, Don't be a cyclist that habitually rides in the "Slice Zone" either get "In" and hold and control the lane or get "Out" and ride on the shoulder edge to the right of the white line and know when to do which and when not to do the other in order to provide the safest and most effective transportation for yourself while respecting the needs of other (mainly faster) road users as often as you can without endangering yourself but never flinching or hesitating to assert yourself when you must do so for your own safety. Watch out for and take pro-active action to discourage and avoid "Left T-Crosses", "Right Hooks", "Right Entry Mow-Downs", "Nose Outs", "Slicers", and all the other less common dangers. Communicate very clearly the incredible importance of how the "body language" of how they ride and how you position yourself on the roadway and what line you take through intersections and traffic conflict points communicates to other road users and how incredibly important that is. Explain how to "Formation Fly" through intersections on high speed roads where they choose a riding position to the right of the main traffic flow so as to keep a gap between cars to their left while passing through the right hook danger zone of the intersection instead of having a car to the left of them that can turn into them and at the same time use the car directly in front and to the left of them as a shield against left-T crosses by staying tucked in tight in that cars 5 o'clock position. Draw out the best through lines for various types of challenging intersections especially high speed intersections with right turn lanes where being to the right of the right turn lane while passing straight through the intersection is the same as a death wish. Demonstrate how when riding in slower traffic riding "All In" like a motor-cycle only one with a human motor and fully controlling the lane and holding their position in the traffic cue works to the best in slow enough traffic that they can keep up. Show them how when riding "All In" one drifts to the left side of the lane on approach to intersections where they will pass straight through to make themselves more visible to oncoming traffic waiting to turn left.

    I suggest starting out with residential neighborhood type 25-mph or less speed, low traffic volume roads and have the inexperienced rider ride "All In" style riding like a motorcycle just one with a human motor concentrating on smoothly gliding their lane position between middle of the traffic lane and right wheel track position as appropriate to conditions as they change to both properly hold the lane and avoid the door zone and you take a 7 to 8 o'clock position on them in the left wheel track of the lane tucked in tight and formation fly close enough and tight enough in that position to serve as their more experienced wing man and be flying combat escort so to speak and be able to give them direction when needed without having to yell (think WWII Red-Tail escort fighter duty for the heavy bombers, and you got the right idea of what your job is for that first month or two).

    After about a month or more including at the bare minimum at least 50 cumulative miles of riding in those kind of conditions and flying formation combat escort duty getting the new rider comfortable with riding in an "All In" position actually riding in the lane with cars (just not that many of them since its a low traffic residential neighborhood environment). Then you can start expanding out and having them follow you and match how you ride in more challenging conditions playing "follow the leader" (you need to be a very good leader on your best behavior) and demonstrate in person when to ride "In" and when to ride "Out" and demonstrate in person those "best lines" through challenging intersections and traffic conflict areas and after a month or two of that you switch places and follow them and see how well they learned.

    That is how I go about developing an inexperienced rider, potentially one with zero on road experience at all. I've taught most of my younger siblings how to successfully ride in traffic and also other family members including the mother of my younger siblings who used to never want to ride a bike on a road with cars except for only neighborhood riding with hardly any cars around and even then she would curb-hug and pass parked cars in the door zone and thought that how I mixed with slower moving heavy traffic in the downtown areas was crazy and would ride on the side-walks instead in those areas and after she had a few close calls and a couple minor injuries riding that way she finally agreed to learn the methods I use and has been much happier and and rides her bike much more often now.

  23. #23
    Transportation Cyclist turbo1889's Avatar
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    The big difference between riding a motorcycle and riding a bicycle in traffic is that with a motorcycle you always ride "All In" and there is never any reason to ride "Out" because you don't have a problem with limited speed capability like you do with the limited power of the human motor. A bicycle requires not only all the skills and knowledge of successfully, safely, and respectfully riding a motorcycle in traffic with cars but also all the skills and knowledge of riding in the "Out" position to the right of the main traffic flow when traffic is moving at significantly higher speeds then you even have a chance of keeping up with and having the wisdom to know when to ride "All In", when to ride "In" and when to ride "Out" and how to safely and smoothly transition between those different riding styles as riding conditions change. It would be nice if the roadway infrastructure were such that only two riding styles ("All In" and "Out") were necessary and riding "In" in was not necessary on roads with high speed traffic (over 45 mph) and there was always a safe, sane, and effective place to ride "Out" on such roads but that is not the case and on some high speed roads riding "Out" is not an option so you have to just ride "In" with extra caution and hope and pray for the best.

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    Thanks for all of the advice. I'll be leaving the fiancee at home until I figure out what the drivers are like in relation to bicycles in the area. If they're courteous or not depends a lot on whether or not I put her life in danger. I don't care if I get hit and die .

    I don't go to cities, And there's absolutely no way that city living is "green" at all. The entire premise of a city is that there is no green around...

    I grew up in an area where I could shoot a bow and hit golf balls in my back yard without disturbing my neighbors. That's green. The whole "green" initiative is pushed by hipsters who wouldn't know the first thing about what it actually means to be "green."

    If, by your statement, you meant that there's less need for things like driving then I'll accept that. But anyone who tries to pass a city off as "green" needs to have a colorblind test.

  25. #25
    incazzare. lostarchitect's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by skcuf View Post
    I don't go to cities, And there's absolutely no way that city living is "green" at all. The entire premise of a city is that there is no green around...

    I grew up in an area where I could shoot a bow and hit golf balls in my back yard without disturbing my neighbors. That's green. The whole "green" initiative is pushed by hipsters who wouldn't know the first thing about what it actually means to be "green."

    If, by your statement, you meant that there's less need for things like driving then I'll accept that. But anyone who tries to pass a city off as "green" needs to have a colorblind test.
    I'm sorry, but you have no idea what you're talking about. Living in a city is greener in every way, from driving to waste disposal to energy demand. I am not Google, so I'm not going to give you an education, but look it up. I'm not saying living in the country is bad in any way--I grew up in a small town and I love the country. But being "green" does not mean being surrounded by grass.
    1964 JRJ (Bob Jackson) San Remo Plus, 1989 Trek 520, 2000ish Colian (Colin Laing), 2013 Velo Orange Pass Hunter

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