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  1. #1
    bragi bragi's Avatar
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    On the effects of age on safe bicycle commuting

    I'm 51 years old. I've been commuting by bike off and on for decades. In the last 8-10 years, I've used my bike for at least 90% of all of my local transportation. I'm an old hand (get it?), and petty much know what I'm doing while riding in traffic.

    Today, though, I very nearly killed myself. I was riding on a fairly busy arterial, trying to make a left turn. I looked forward, and it was clear, I looked back to make sure no cars were going to try to pass as I made the turn, looked forward again as I began the turn -and a white van was coming towards me at 40 mph. I'm still irritated with myself that I hadn't noticed it earlier. I reacted very quickly, aborted the turn, let the van pass and then made the turn, all in the space of about two seconds, but this episode gave me pause. First of all, I should have noticed the van earlier than I did. Second of all, I wonder what might have happened had my reaction time been a little slower. I sense that I'm not quite as quick as I used to be, and I'm certain that I'll only continue to get less aware and slower with each passing year. I'm sure I can keep commuting into my 60's at least, but I'll have to make adjustments to my riding style as I continue to become more aged.

    So here are my questions:

    1. What adjustments should commuters make as they get older and slower?
    2. What is the maximum safe age for bicycle commuting?
    If you're not part of the solution, you're part of the precipitate.

  2. #2
    Senior Member zonatandem's Avatar
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    Commuted for 16 years and retired at age 63.
    No longer commute anywhere but still ride 100+/- miles a week at age 80.
    My reflexes are still very good,but perhaps my eyesight is bit of an issue with glaucoma.

  3. #3
    Senior Member loneviking61's Avatar
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    IMHO, the age limit depends on the person and their physical condition. Problems such as diminishing eyesight and hearing are real hazards that should cause a change in where they ride. Quieter, less traveled streets would seem to be in order. Another problem that I've seen recently are hip fractures from very slow speed crashes. You need to keep track of your bone health and if your bones are brittle it might be time to retire the bike.

  4. #4
    Senior Member a1penguin's Avatar
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    I'm not sure why you attribute your close call with age. S*** happens and sometimes we make mistakes. Perhaps the van changed lanes or something similar and it really did come out of nowhere. If you find you are having more frequent "senior moments", then you might want to consider staying away from busy streets. I'm no spring chicken either, but I am willing to take the risks of cycling. It's just me and the cats, no dependents, so I don't have a lot to lose.
    2012 Cannondale Synapse 3, 2012 Trek 7.5 FX Disc, 2003 Trek 2200 WSD, 1997 Specialized Rockhopper Al Comp

  5. #5
    nashcommguy
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    Started commuting in 1987 and just turned sixty this year. Was concerned about the same thing. Reaction time/reflexes, etc. So, my PC Phys arranged for me to have several tests involving brain teasers, 3D problem solving(fun w/blocks, basically ) and reaction time/reflex action. The results were in the 100+ percentile in every catagory. My reaction/reflex times were that of one in my early 30s. Juggling everyday, helps I'm sure, (I'm a juggler)but people who involve themselves in intense, life endangering activities such as cycle -commuting on a daily basis have a substantial edge in dealing w/stressful situations on those who choose not to. It heightens one's senses and keeps the survival instinct right at the top. Keep doing what you're doing and add juggling to your concentration repetoire of cross-training and you'll see it pay off in a very short period of time. It forces one to keep track of the periphial as if it were the main focus.

  6. #6
    Senior Member tarwheel's Avatar
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    I'm wondering if you were just distracted or stressed that day, thinking about other issues. I'm 58 and haven't noticed any diminishment in bike handling skills. I may not be as fast as I used to be but my endurance is probably better and I'm logging more mileage than ever. You really need to be 100% focused when cycling in traffic, and it's easy to get distracted due to work, problems at home, or whatever.

    One of the leading cycling proponents in our metro area (bike club president, bike safety instructor, long time commuter and randonneur) was killed on a routine ride here several years ago. Apparently due to a moment's distraction, he turned left in front of a car. According to witnesses and police reports, the driver was not at fault at all. Who knows why it happened, but I suspect that the cyclist was distracted by something.

  7. #7
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    That sounds exactly like something that happened to me when I had my last automobile accident, at the ripe old age of twenty-seven.

  8. #8
    Pedaled too far. Artkansas's Avatar
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    My riding style has gotten more conservative. But I don't experience nearly as many dangerous situations as I did when I was in my 20's.
    "He who serves all, best serves himself" Jack London

    Quote Originally Posted by Bjforrestal View Post
    I don't care if you are on a unicycle, as long as you're not using a motor to get places you get props from me. We're here to support each other. Share ideas, and motivate one another to actually keep doing it.

  9. #9
    Senior Member locolobo13's Avatar
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    Stuff happens. Even younger eyes miss stuff. I have made mistakes like that riding and driving and have been fortunate like you were. As far as your questions go,

    Adjustments? As you gain experience, not necessarily age, you should learn from it. Think about the lessons to be learned.

    Absolute age limit? Can you see? If not you need to do tandem with a partner. Can you pedal or otherwise handle the physical requirements? If yes then go for it. Just watch your limits.

    Just my opinions.

  10. #10
    Randomhead
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    I think this happens to everyone. I do tend to look both ways multiple times, but sometimes you miss something.

    I was having close calls at one particular intersection until I realized people were doing max-acceleration starts from parking spots. Be nice if they put a bump out at the end of the parking spaces to stop that.

  11. #11
    ouate de phoque dramiscram's Avatar
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    At 51 did you ever thought about euthanasia?
    Originally Posted by Leebo

    Headwind is like a hill without a soul. Just gear down and suffer.
    Quote Originally Posted by jrickards View Post
    Headwinds are hills dipped in evil!

  12. #12
    Senior Member dynodonn's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by a1penguin View Post
    I'm not sure why you attribute your close call with age. S*** happens and sometimes we make mistakes. Perhaps the van changed lanes or something similar....
    +1

    For me, it's the occasional motorist that catches me off guard when approaching from the rear, and after reviewing my rear video, seeing how some will roll a stop sign, change lanes and quickly pull up behind me in the short time that I was scanning upcoming traffic.

  13. #13
    nashcommguy
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    Quote Originally Posted by dynodonn View Post
    +1

    For me, it's the occasional motorist that catches me off guard when approaching from the rear, and after reviewing my rear video, seeing how some will roll a stop sign, change lanes and quickly pull up behind me in the short time that I was scanning upcoming traffic.
    Wow, you roll w/2 cameras? I'm in the selection process for a front one myself and found one @ $99.00 that's got 1.5 hrs run time. And night vision. Can't remember the model, but I'll do an IS and find it again. Anyway, sorry for the thread drift, OP.

  14. #14
    Senior Member
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    I like my bar end mirror, keeps me looking forward more of the time. ( 49) today

  15. #15
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    I was involved in an accident with a car just last week. Car came out of nowhere across traffic. I reacted as fast as I could and we still hit. I'm 32. Stuff happens. Just keep an eye out for any other instances where you think you would/should have been more aware and if it starts to happen more than you are comfortable with evaluate yourself then.

    Your situation is just another reason why I ride with a camera. It gives me recall to know if I am going crazy or if "that car came out of nowhere."
    Tailwinds make me feel like Superman and headwinds make me feel like Lois Lane.

  16. #16
    Insane cycling cook DwarvenChef's Avatar
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    At 48 with YEARS of abuse to my body I'm now trying to get as much riding in as I can before the system really starts falling apart. I don't see it as an "age" factor for me it's a milage factor
    Slow is smooth, smooth is fast...

  17. #17
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    Im going to go out on a limb here and guess you may have had a few more (almost) mishaps than usual to even be thinking that. If not, well its happened to me, im 65. What ive found is my reactions are still good but i was having more having to react moments than when i was younger. Ive found that my mind cant multi task anymore at my age. So long as i concentrate on just riding im good. Actually just concentrating on one thing at a time now has to apply to everything i do, or ill not lock my doors or forget lunch,stuff like that as well.
    To sum up,dont let your mind wander when in traffic and you should be fine. Although i was older than 51 before that started. Your pretty young yet.

  18. #18
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    I'm 29 and last week I was running errands in my car, and managed to completely not see a truck I was looking directly at until the last possible second to avoid a collision. Sometimes brains do silly things.

    Then there's also point 2. If you're too old to bike, you're way to old to drive, since awareness and reaction times have to be faster to go with the higher speed of motorized vehicles.

  19. #19
    Se˝ior Member ItsJustMe's Avatar
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    I think the problem is more complacency than age. The same thing happens to car drivers. They get to where they do the same actions day after day and they just don't notice when things change, like there being a bicycle there when there never was a bicycle before; they just don't see it.
    Work: the 8 hours that separates bike rides.

  20. #20
    Slogging along rubic's Avatar
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    Complacency is certainly a problem. Bicycle commuting requires a heightened sense of situational awareness. As we age, we need to focus more on this issue. And, we need to take less chances. In our youth, we could ride like a fighter pilot. As we age, we need to ride like a commercial airline pilot.

  21. #21
    Senior Member nkfrench's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by neil View Post
    Then there's also point 2. If you're too old to bike, you're way to old to drive, since awareness and reaction times have to be faster to go with the higher speed of motorized vehicles.
    Hate to say it, but this is an excellent point. On a bike if you make a mistake, you probably aren't going to kill any innocent bystanders.

  22. #22
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    I'm 57 and didn't have any serious accidents until I turned 50, and I've had 3 others since. Makes me wonder.

  23. #23
    Pedal pusher... alicestrong's Avatar
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    I'm more of the "commuting is great exercise for the brain" school of thought, as long as you can keep from letting the mind wander. You can never be too attentive.
    May you live long, live strong, and live happy!

  24. #24
    Senior Member downtube42's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by bragi View Post
    I'm 51 years old. I've been commuting by bike off and on for decades. In the last 8-10 years, I've used my bike for at least 90% of all of my local transportation. I'm an old hand (get it?), and petty much know what I'm doing while riding in traffic.

    Today, though, I very nearly killed myself. I was riding on a fairly busy arterial, trying to make a left turn. I looked forward, and it was clear, I looked back to make sure no cars were going to try to pass as I made the turn, looked forward again as I began the turn -and a white van was coming towards me at 40 mph. I'm still irritated with myself that I hadn't noticed it earlier. I reacted very quickly, aborted the turn, let the van pass and then made the turn, all in the space of about two seconds, but this episode gave me pause. First of all, I should have noticed the van earlier than I did. Second of all, I wonder what might have happened had my reaction time been a little slower. I sense that I'm not quite as quick as I used to be, and I'm certain that I'll only continue to get less aware and slower with each passing year. I'm sure I can keep commuting into my 60's at least, but I'll have to make adjustments to my riding style as I continue to become more aged.

    So here are my questions:

    1. What adjustments should commuters make as they get older and slower?
    2. What is the maximum safe age for bicycle commuting?
    1. Wait for bigger gaps.
    1a. If there are no bigger gaps, find another road. Or another city.
    2. Depending on genetics, disease, exercise, diet, and unknown factors, anywhere from zero to 100.
    What is bicycle touring?
    "So I kept looking and eventually found that a spark plug had same threads. So I cycled next two days until I got to Jackson, MS with a spark plug instead of right pedal." - mev

  25. #25
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    I'm not sure your not noticing the van was age related. Around 30 years old I was getting ready to cross a 4-way. Looked right and saw nothing. Started to pull out, and - whoa!! there was a car coming from where I had just looked only a few car lengths from me. How I didn't see it, I don't know. But there it was.

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