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Commuting Bicycle commuting is easier than you think, before you know it, you'll be hooked. Learn the tips, hints, equipment, safety requirements for safely riding your bike to work.

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Old 06-24-09, 07:02 PM   #1
Algorithm
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safe riding tips that don't reference laws?

hello all,

there are many guides around with tips for commuting safely, but i can't seem to find one that doesn't start with the suggestion that you follow the law. that somewhat compromises the credibility of the guide, for me (i break the law every day, running red lights when there's nobody around, etc..).

many of these guides go on to give useful advice which often i do choose to follow. however, it is difficult for me to evaluate the advice when i am not confident in the guide.

it is hard to put myself in the motorists' shoes when i don't drive. i would like a resource with tips from city drivers on how to be a pro-social commuter. and of course i would like advice from veteran urban cyclists.

i live in pittsburgh and would even pay for classes here if someone were to offer a "real world" commuter safety class. i understand there's a liability issue but i don't see why i couldn't sign something beforehand.

please no one flame me for running red lights. i am trying to make a serious effort here to be safe and polite on my bike, but following all traffic laws is not something i am going to do voluntarily.

thanks.
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Old 06-24-09, 07:08 PM   #2
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I wouldn't expect much in the way of safety then.

Lights? Although that is connected to the laws in most cities. I rode with a poor quality cheap halogen when I first got back on the bike. Quickly realized how faulty that was. Invest in a decent front and rear set that will make you visible. I've been quite happy with the Fenix brand as well as a Serfas light I picked up at my bike shop with a strobe mode.

Bell? Again probably connected to a law but having something to announce yourself to pedestrians and other cyclists has been good for me on occasion.

I think in general you are going to have a hard time finding safe riding tips that aren't connected to the local laws. Hand signals? Riding on the proper side of the road?
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Old 06-24-09, 07:13 PM   #3
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politicalgeek, all good tips. i'm not a newbie though, and am reasonably safe and polite. however i think there's always room to improve. i have questions. for example, on a wide one-way with city buses, do we ride on the left or right? i go with left, but i would like to hear arguments for both.
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Old 06-24-09, 07:15 PM   #4
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Plan and expect the worst from motorists. Hopefully, you are pleasantly surprised when it does not happen.
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Old 06-24-09, 07:18 PM   #5
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I deal with one ways like that. In general, I stick to the right and pretty much take that lane. Considering most municipalities have a slow traffic to the right law, I think it makes sense to stay on the right. Easier to be in the right (according to the law) in case of a traffic accident. If I turn onto a one way with the intention of turning left onto another street within a pretty reasonable distance, then I'll take the far left lane so I don't have to try and play frogger across 4-5 lanes.
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Old 06-24-09, 07:20 PM   #6
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sure, i like the right side, too, because it's the "slow lane" and drivers are less impatient over there. however, as a matter of respect for the passing city buses, i use the far left.
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Old 06-24-09, 07:23 PM   #7
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in fact, if i turn onto a wide one way with city buses with the intention of making a quick right, i still go all the way over to the left, and then get off the road and cross with the light. perhaps i should make a deal with a grizzled commuter to shadow him/her. i really want to be the best i can be but i want to minimize the "learning the hard way."
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Old 06-24-09, 08:46 PM   #8
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How about this one- never sit at the end of a line of cars at a stop light. Who is the first person to be rear-ended? Answer the person at the end of the line. I filter up so that I am not the last in the line.
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Old 06-24-09, 08:47 PM   #9
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The Art of Cycling: A Guide to Bicycling in 21st-century America

I've read some of this book. It contains the kind of information you are looking for. The author stresses vigilance and taking personal responsibility for your own safety while bicycling (On a side-note, I believe the author has posted here on bikeforums before).
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Old 06-24-09, 09:16 PM   #10
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thanks mawtangent!
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Old 06-24-09, 09:29 PM   #11
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please no one flame me for running red lights. i am trying to make a serious effort here to be safe and polite on my bike, but following all traffic laws is not something i am going to do voluntarily.

thanks.
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Old 06-24-09, 09:39 PM   #12
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The Art of Cycling: A Guide to Bicycling in 21st-century America

I've read some of this book. It contains the kind of information you are looking for. The author stresses vigilance and taking personal responsibility for your own safety while bicycling (On a side-note, I believe the author has posted here on bikeforums before).
Yes I recommend this also, best cycling book I've read. I would suggest just reading around though, even some of the Vehicular stuff has merit. I've read Cyclecraft from the Uk recently http://www.cyclecraft.co.uk/ which is good for cycle instructors.

At the end of the day though it's about what works on your commute.
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Old 06-24-09, 09:46 PM   #13
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please no one flame me for running red lights. i am trying to make a serious effort here to be safe and polite on my bike, but following all traffic laws is not something i am going to do voluntarily.
I'm sure you'll appreciate every other vehicle operator on the road adopting the same attitude.
I've been commuting by bike for over 30 years...the only reason to break a law is if complying puts you at risk. If you wanna break the laws for convenience, at least be honest enough to admit that you ain't no better than the other drivers and STFU when you think about getting angry at them for disregarding the laws for convenience themselves.

I highly recommend Hurst's book, The Art of Cycling.
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Old 06-24-09, 09:59 PM   #14
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Old 06-24-09, 10:15 PM   #15
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If you decide to ignore certain laws that is your choice, however I don't see how recommending that you follow the laws invalidates the rest of the advice in a given guide.

I would regard any tip as a recommendation rather than a "must do" because more than likely there will be situations where following a given tip would not be the best choice.

I think of laws in the same way. Traffic laws are intended to keep things moving, to promote predictability, and to keep people safe. That doesn't mean following the letter of the law is always the right thing to do, but in general it is.
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Old 06-24-09, 10:50 PM   #16
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Not that sitting at red lights is something you do, but I don't filter to the front. I commute with basically the same drivers, day in and day out. Since the cars waiting at the light just went around me, if I force them to move over and pass me again, I think it is only breeding ill-will.
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Old 06-24-09, 10:57 PM   #17
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You'll love JoeyBike's how-to video on running red lights safely: http://www.vimeo.com/2626739


Also here's a corny video on riding like a vehicle: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rU4nK...eature=related
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Old 06-24-09, 11:16 PM   #18
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Quote:
Originally Posted by chipcom View Post
I'm sure you'll appreciate every other vehicle operator on the road adopting the same attitude.
I've been commuting by bike for over 30 years...the only reason to break a law is if complying puts you at risk. If you wanna break the laws for convenience, at least be honest enough to admit that you ain't no better than the other drivers and STFU when you think about getting angry at them for disregarding the laws for convenience themselves.
The Art of Cycling.

Although I do basically agree with chipcom, the OP has been honest and open, and hasn't been angry at cardrivers in his posts. His/Her request not to be flamed/criticized seems to be humble, fair and to be respected, imo. He is obviously aware of the personal risk he takes with his riding attitude but doesn't want the thread to be sidetracked from the original questions which he simply clarified by describing his attitude to the law. (all IMO, hope this was ok OP?)
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Old 06-24-09, 11:38 PM   #19
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Are you guys serious. Do you really come to a complete stop at each and every stop sign? Use signals on each and every turn? never cut through a parking lot or alley? Dismount and walk at any point that you have to go on a sidewalk?

I can not believe that you guys are not aware that bicycles are not cars, they are bicycles.
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Old 06-24-09, 11:59 PM   #20
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Are you guys serious. Do you really come to a complete stop at each and every stop sign? Use signals on each and every turn? never cut through a parking lot or alley? Dismount and walk at any point that you have to go on a sidewalk?

I can not believe that you guys are not aware that bicycles are not cars, they are bicycles.
I thought they were walnuts

I don't come to a complete stop at each and every stop sign in my car, nor do I signal EVERY turn. I've certainly driven through alleys and parking lots though I've rarely done so as a way to avoid traffic. Sometimes I even exceed the speed limit. I do dismount from my car to go on a sidewalk.

I don't run lights in my car and I don't run them on my bike. I don't think being on a bike gives me any more right to pick and choose which laws apply to me than being in a car does. I understand that if I break a traffic law, I run the risk of getting fined, or even worse, causing harm to myself or someone else.

I do think think both drivers and cyclists should behave in a predictable manor.
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Old 06-25-09, 02:31 AM   #21
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Are you guys serious. Do you really come to a complete stop at each and every stop sign? Use signals on each and every turn? never cut through a parking lot or alley? Dismount and walk at any point that you have to go on a sidewalk?

I can not believe that you guys are not aware that bicycles are not cars, they are bicycles.
Complete stop? Depends. On the side roads, I gear down and slow to a near stop and check traffic in both directions. If there is cross traffic, complete stop. If none, then I keep going.

Turn signals? The majority of the time. I ride a lot of the side roads, so I often don't have traffic behind me. In those cases I don't signal. When I have traffic behind, opposite or on a side street then I signal my attention.

Parking lots and alleys? Sure, sometimes it's easier to cut through. But I drive alleys on occasion in my car so what is the difference.

Dismount on the sidewalk? Again depends. Rarely, if ever do I ride on the sidewalk here. About the only time I might be on the sidewalk is to park and lock the bike. Usually I find an empty space on the street and pull over to get off and walk to the rack.
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Old 06-25-09, 05:26 AM   #22
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Are you guys serious. Do you really come to a complete stop at each and every stop sign? Use signals on each and every turn? never cut through a parking lot or alley? Dismount and walk at any point that you have to go on a sidewalk?

I can not believe that you guys are not aware that bicycles are not cars, they are bicycles.
According to the laws of many states, bicycles are vehicles and subject to the same laws as motor vehicles. with some exceptions/additions specific to bikes.

If you are going to operate a vehicle on the road, do so according to the rules of the road and applicable traffic laws, just as you expect other vehicle operators to do. A very basic principal that allows multiple users of the road to operate SAFELY is PREDICTABILITY - everybody working from the same set of rules.

Yes, there are some differences in rules for different classes of vehicles...but I do not recall one (cept for Idaho) that exempts a bike from stopping for traffic lights.
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Old 06-25-09, 06:34 AM   #23
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If you are going to operate a vehicle on the road, do so according to the rules of the road and applicable traffic laws, just as you expect other vehicle operators to do. A very basic principal that allows multiple users of the road to operate SAFELY is PREDICTABILITY - everybody working from the same set of rules.
Actually, "predictability" derives from everybody doing what you expect them to do, not from everybody doing the same thing. There's an important distinction.
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Old 06-25-09, 06:43 AM   #24
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Actually, "predictability" derives from everybody doing what you expect them to do, not from everybody doing the same thing. There's an important distinction.
I agree...that is what I meant by 'working from the same rule book'.

It is ironic tho...on the one hand we advocate the value of predictability, but on the other, I always recommend planning for Murphy and expecting the unexpected.
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Old 06-25-09, 06:57 AM   #25
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