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  1. #1
    Senior Member claire's Avatar
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    Two fatal accidents on 600 Brevets

    The French Community of Randonneurs has been shaken in the last couple of weeks by two accidents that cost the life of two cyclists: one on the BRM 600 of Gap (south of France) and one week later, one on the BRM 600 of Chartres. A lot of us are shocked by this. In both cases, the accident happened at night, the cyclists were riding alone, they had the adequate lighting and reflective gears, and both drivers flew from the crime scene. The one from Gap had been found by the police and it was definitely a case of drunk driving. We don't know much about the second one yet.

    This is just aweful.

    I'm supposed to ride my 600 this week end and I'm scared... We've been discussing on french forums what we could do to prevent it from happening again but frankly I don't know what to suggest! Riding in a group might not be safer, quite the opposite actually because a drunk driver would just hit the whole group instead of one rider. Maybe one solution might be to use mirrors more often. I have one because I ride a recumbent and it enables me to check how a driver is passing me. Any thoughts on how to increase safety at night?

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    Wear the bright gear and use plenty of lights. Even with that, some things are left to chance.

    It's easy for me to say from the comfort of my computer, but you can't look at two incidents close together and consider it an epidemic, or think that there is any greater chance than normal for you to get hit during your upcoming event.
    "The automobile became a hypnosis, the opium of the American people..." -James Agee, Fortune, September 1934

  3. #3
    Senior Member Richard Cranium's Avatar
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    Yes - this is terrible news.

    I just completed a night ride last weekend. At one point - after reentering the urban area I saw police arresting three different drivers in three cars.

    This of course happens almost every night as taverns close. I have promised myself to never ride through that area at that time of night ever again.

    I had an opportunity to take back roads to avoid the main street where the drivers were driving drunk - but I was tired.

    By the way - the reason I do not ride the Brevets in my area is because the RBA uses dangerous roads. So I go for rides on the roads with the least traffic -by myself.

    All brevets riders can hope to to do is to study the route and be aware of which roads will take them near towns with taverns. Plan to rest during the closing hours. Also - sometimes there is a "special event" in an area that can cause unusually high traffic. I avoided such an event Saturday night and found myself in a dangerous stretch of roads anyway.

    Sometimes - you just have to grin and be alert.
    Sorry about my comments - I thought you wanted honest feedback.
    2003 Lemond Wayzata - 2002 LeMond Malliot Jeune

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    Sorry to hear about the deaths.

    As far as mirrors go, they are only as useful as you make them. Think about when you are driving a car. How often do you look in your rear view mirrors then? Does it differ based on time of day, traffic or road conditions? On a bicycle, it's the same issue - if you have a mirror and don't look into it, then it's just dead weight.

    Other safety equipment you might consider includes: refelctive ankle strips, hi-visibility Sam Brown belt or reflective vest, safety triangle, and reflective tape strip on your bike frame/wheels/rims/spokes. Illuminite fabric clothing is excellent, in my opinion, but a bit expensive. Obviously, front and rear lighting is a must at night. While other riders love flashing lights on their bikes, I find them not only annoying but distracting - and in some jurisdictions they can be illegal depending on color and/or location on the bike.

    Using only a single ear bud (or none at all) for music should help you hear approaching traffic.

    Never riding two abreast on the road is something to consider.

    Finally, always look for a "bail out" route out of traffic and/or off the roadway as soon as any vehicle approaches you from any direction. Even other bicycles can cause accidents.
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    While others have labelled me antisocial at various times, it's actually not true. I just don't like people.

  5. #5
    Senior Member Marcello's Avatar
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    I feel safer riding on a brevet at night than I do riding during the day. I have seen many times car drivers do stupid stuff during the day, not paying attention to me, to the road, or to other cars. But there are fewer cars at night, therefore fewer drivers who do stupid stuff.

    I don't trust any driver, and I am always aware of what is coming behind me or in the opposite direction, thanks to good mirrors (I am also a recumbent rider). Of course, on all the brevets that are organized here locally, including those that I organize, I ride at night on rural roads that have little traffic. That helps a lot.

    I also have quite a bit of reflective tape on my trike frame and wheels, a reflective flag, and lights that are visible from afar. But I don't rely on my good visibility to be safe. I keep a close eye on the road around me, and react accordingly. It may still not be enough to guarantee a collision-free riding, but I am not going to let drivers (or the fear of drivers) keep me from cycling at night.

  6. #6
    Uber Goober StephenH's Avatar
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    One reason routes use the roads they do is that you have to make the route where it can't be shortcutted, or else put a control to avoid shortcutting it. Some of the roads I ride on everyday would make a fine brevet, but it would be difficult to work it for this reason.

    I find the mirror most useful for watching other bikes, and for watching traffic if I'm changing lanes. I don't think my odds of avoiding a rear-end runover would be a lot better with the mirror than without. (Assuming the car is coming up from behind you, you'd be using the mirror to stare into his headlights the whole while.) And all the reflective gear in the world doesn't help if the driver is oblivious to his surroundings due to alcohol, sleep, texting, or whatever.

    Ultimately, for me, the question is not so much "did a rider die", but "what are the odds of that happening". Probably all of us that are of any age have personally known people that were killed in car wrecks, but it never made us stop driving, either. If it starts looking like bicycling is way more dangerous that anything else, that's worth looking at. If you pick out incidents here and there and say the sky is falling, you get kind of misleading results.
    "be careful this rando stuff is addictive and dan's the 'pusher'."

  7. #7
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    Sorry to hear that the French rando community has lost two of its riders. Just before PBP, too. I can understand how unsettling it can be, Claire, but you've done a lot of randonnees, and you've finished the last PBP. How many near misses have you had in your riding so far? Stephen makes a very good point about this.

    While I understand the desire for everyone to make themselves more conspicuous on the road with reflective gear and lights, I have to ask the question -- how many of you have actually followed someone dressed like you (or exactly like you, in fact) riding the same bike as yours, in a car? Do so. It could be very enlightening.

    The reason why I raise this among the advice given in this thread is that Machka made a very pertinent comment to me one night when she said: "Your reflective bandolier basically disappears when you lean over to ride. You need a big reflective panel across your butt!"

    Now, reflective vests, from my understanding of the PBP organisers' philosophy, are there for off-the-bike at the roadside, not necessarily for when riding it.

    Because of that, for me, lights are always going to be the most important items for night-time riding. Them and my ears because I can usually tell from the sound of a car approaching from behind if there might be an issue. A mirror is only going to be filled with headlight beams and won't really give you a clue as to where it is when overtaking you.

    By the way, there were no details given of the accidents in which the cyclists were killed. We can surmise they might have been hit from behind, but drunk drivers are also renowned for running give way and stop signs at junctions, and for overtaking or veering into the lanes of oncoming traffic.

    So really, Claire, my advice is just to keep riding, remain attentive and make yourself suitably conspicuous.
    Dream. Dare. Do.

  8. #8
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    It's just heartbreaking to hear this.

    On the topic of mirrors, as a long-time mirror user, I can't understand why anyone would refuse to use a mirror. A couple of weeks ago, I carelessly dumped some stuff onto my helmet and broke the mirror mount, so rode without a mirror. It was like riding naked. You feel completely vulnerable because you can't quickly check whether that car you hear behind you is passing properly or is aiming right at you. I have to think that the people who wonder how a mirror can help at night haven't used one -- it's just as easy to tell how a car is coming up on you at night as it is during the day. What's more, a little side benefit is that by turning my head a little, I can use the mirror to block the headlights of oncoming cars so I don't get blinded. Not wearing a mirror means that you either have to look over your shoulder at every car or trust that they are passing safely. My observation of randonneurs who don't use mirrors is that they use the "trust" method and are not swiveling their heads constantly. Personally, I don't trust the lunatics who drive on our roads.

    Mirrors are not a wonder-panacea that will keep riders out of all trouble. But they're an additional defense in a hazardous world. They cost little, weigh little, are easy to use, and provide positive value. To those who don't use mirrors: Would you drive a car without a mirror? How does riding a bike without a mirror make you safer? I know mirrors are banned by UCI so lots of people who want to look like racerdudes don't wear mirrors. But racers are riding on a controlled course.

    Nick

  9. #9
    Uber Goober StephenH's Avatar
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    thebulls...just to clarify, I DO use a mirror, particularly on rando rides- I just don't have a lot of confidence that it would prevent me from being run over by a drunk. I do find car mirrors considerably more useful than a bike mirror, in that they are automatically aimed right, whereas I have to move my head around to get my bike mirror in the right spot.
    "be careful this rando stuff is addictive and dan's the 'pusher'."

  10. #10
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    Quote Originally Posted by thebulls View Post
    It's just heartbreaking to hear this.

    On the topic of mirrors, as a long-time mirror user, I can't understand why anyone would refuse to use a mirror. A couple of weeks ago, I carelessly dumped some stuff onto my helmet and broke the mirror mount, so rode without a mirror. It was like riding naked. You feel completely vulnerable because you can't quickly check whether that car you hear behind you is passing properly or is aiming right at you. I have to think that the people who wonder how a mirror can help at night haven't used one -- it's just as easy to tell how a car is coming up on you at night as it is during the day. What's more, a little side benefit is that by turning my head a little, I can use the mirror to block the headlights of oncoming cars so I don't get blinded. Not wearing a mirror means that you either have to look over your shoulder at every car or trust that they are passing safely. My observation of randonneurs who don't use mirrors is that they use the "trust" method and are not swiveling their heads constantly. Personally, I don't trust the lunatics who drive on our roads.

    Mirrors are not a wonder-panacea that will keep riders out of all trouble. But they're an additional defense in a hazardous world. They cost little, weigh little, are easy to use, and provide positive value. To those who don't use mirrors: Would you drive a car without a mirror? How does riding a bike without a mirror make you safer? I know mirrors are banned by UCI so lots of people who want to look like racerdudes don't wear mirrors. But racers are riding on a controlled course.

    Nick
    I don't necessarily disagree with you, Nick. We have mirrors on our bikes. But... there are trade-offs, and one of them is taking your eye off what is going on in front of you to check what's happening behind you. I think statistically, there are more accidents involving cyclists being hit from head-on, sideways or from next to them (ie, a hook turn) than being hit from behind.

    And I stick by what I said about a mirror being filled with so much car lights at night that you can't really see what position the car is in as it is about to pass.

    There is a lot more to "being safe" on the road. Conspicuity is one thing, being aware is another, but also continually scanning for escape routes is another.

    But if people really want to get serious about safety issues, and particularly on randonnees, how about an exhausted cyclist riding a bike on usually unknown roads, often in limited visibility, concentrating on a computer distance and route instructions. If you were talking about a driver doing the same thing, you would be demanding the driver's licence be torn up and thrown away.
    Dream. Dare. Do.

  11. #11
    Senior Member claire's Avatar
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    Thanks for the messages and advice...
    About the "safer at night than at day", I also would tend to agree, because indeed there are less drivers. However, in my 400 last month I was riding with another cyclist and we got harassed at least 4 times between 10pm and midnight by drivers, people screaming at us from their car window, passing really close and fast just for the "fun" of it, and one throwing stuff at us. There is definitely a concentration of stupid drivers on saturday nights around that time... And these two fatal accidents did happen at night... One thing that organizers could consider is to do Brevets during the week instead of week ends maybe?
    About the reflective gear: it seems to me that I've got a lot of it already but I'm going to take more for this brevet. I've got 3 rear lights, too.
    About riding alone: I would tend to think that riding in a group is not really safer, because you chat, you're not so attentive o your surroundings, you take more space, other cyclists might fall asleep, etc... I find myself much more attentive when I ride on my own, because that's all I have to do. On the 600 I'll have one of the best riding partner, my friend Bruno who is presently president of the Union des Audax Francais...
    Anyway thanks everybody...

  12. #12
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    Somewhere I read that about half of the drivers on the road after 11PM are drunk or have been drinking.

  13. #13
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    Quote Originally Posted by Rowan View Post
    ...
    But if people really want to get serious about safety issues, and particularly on randonnees, how about an exhausted cyclist riding a bike on usually unknown roads, often in limited visibility, concentrating on a computer distance and route instructions. If you were talking about a driver doing the same thing, you would be demanding the driver's licence be torn up and thrown away.
    Hi, Rowan,

    I agree. But I can't resist giving the somewhat flippant reply: Yes, but at least the randonneur isn't simultaneously talking on the cell phone (or worse, trying to send a text message) while they're doing all this!

    FWIW, the mirror that I use is the "Take-a-Look" mirror, which tends to stay focussed where you put it, regardless of how rough the road is or how windy it is. I set it so I can see my ear and the top of my shoulder, so there's always a frame of reference to help me tell where I'm aiming. So it's very easy to just take a glance backward every thirty seconds or so to see who's coming up behind. Even at night, it takes only a glance to scan the road behind. About the only time that the mirror doesn't "work" as well is when I'm down in the drops and my shoulders tend to block my vision a little. As I said in my post, I don't think of mirrors as a miracle panacea. Every so often I'll be passed by a car that I neither heard nor saw. On our recent 600Km, that happened twice in 37 hours. I agree that it's important to be constantly scanning for escape routes, but you can only use one if you know that you need to do it, and if you don't know what's behind you, then how can you know whether to bail out?

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    I love my mirror, but I've still had a few episodes where my attention drifts and I get startled by a passing vehicle (usually a motorcycle with loud pipes). The mirror is better for riding upright. When I'm on my road bike, on the hoods, I have to crane a bit to see past my shoulder. From the drops, I can't see anything behind me.
    "The automobile became a hypnosis, the opium of the American people..." -James Agee, Fortune, September 1934

  15. #15
    Senior Member Richard Cranium's Avatar
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    I really believe in mirrors - but the bigger issue is paying attention.

    I know of three cycling deaths - where the rider was using a mirror - but was NOT using it at the time they were hit. In all three cases - it was broad daylight and the cyclists were struck by inattentive drivers.

    In all three case - I suspect the cyclists felt safe because THERE WAS NO REASON -for them to be hit.

    And let me add - this is exactly why I was hit - I looked up the road at another car while an idiot made a left turn right into me in bright sunshine - with the sun at the driver's back. I had given up on making eye -contact because of the sun - but never expected someone to plow into me - i was wearing bright red AND sitting up!!
    Sorry about my comments - I thought you wanted honest feedback.
    2003 Lemond Wayzata - 2002 LeMond Malliot Jeune

  16. #16
    just another gosling Carbonfiberboy's Avatar
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    Agree with Rowan about the mirror at night. I find it pretty much useless. I can't see where it is or what it is, and just the act of moving my head to bring the object into my field of view knocks out that eye. Racoons, potholes, grates, and the like are a more immediate danger to me. Hit one of those with a car behind you and you have a problem. Night vision, night moves. BTW, I always position my mirror so I have to turn my head to the left a bit to use it. I get a better field of view and don't get the car lights if I don't want them. I don't have a strategy beyond being lit and alert. Situational awareness, just like an aircraft pilot. Head on a pivot, keep it moving. Cars and trucks plow right into pacelines in broad daylight, and not even drunk. Seen it happen, missed me but lost a riding buddy. Luck, and good luck to all of us.

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    I agree with the earlier poster on the Take-a-Look mirror. I tried several different options a few years back to do a review article for my club's newsletter and it was far and away the best.

    Also agree that mirrors can be very helpful, but are not a panacea.

    Also, too many lights, reflectors etc. can be a problem as well--people who are drunk are naturally drawn toward light. I'd never ride at night w/o lights, but they don't solve all problems either. Nobody should kid themselves that riding at night is not dangerous. If you don't ride at night and don't run red lights, your chances of getting killed on a bike go way, way down.

  18. #18
    Senior Member Homeyba's Avatar
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    I've never worn a mirror, never felt the need for one. I've never been hit from the rear either. I'm not sure that even if you did see someone coming you'd have much time to do anything except say a quick prayer.
    It doesn't get harder, you just go slower.

  19. #19
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    Quote Originally Posted by Homeyba View Post
    I've never worn a mirror, never felt the need for one. I've never been hit from the rear either. I'm not sure that even if you did see someone coming you'd have much time to do anything except say a quick prayer.
    It's hard to read that without thinking of Blanche DuBois in Streetcar Named Desire saying "I depend on the kindness of strangers." (in two-ton cars). Sorry!

    I've never been hit from the rear, either, nor the front (except by a stupid woman on a bicycle who cut right in front of me and crashed right into me). Knock on wood.

    With or without a mirror, there is definitely an element of luck in what we do.

    Here's hoping that all of us have good luck.

    Best,

    Nick

  20. #20
    Senior Member claire's Avatar
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    So I completed my 600 brevet last week end. It was actually quite interesting. My cycling partner did not finished and I rode 450 km on my own, including 2 hours at night. I was quite nervous about it in the beginning, I tried to stay really alert, but luckily the route was on very small and quiet roads, so no problem with drivers. I didn't see many anyways.

    The interesting thing was when I got to the hotel I had booked at 1am and finding out that everything was closed and nobody was there to let me in... (communication problem when I booked I guess) So anyway I had to find a Plan B... So I was in this very little village in the middle of Normandie, on my own, tired, cold and wet because it had rained a lot. I got very, very lucky because the church was open! It was the perfect place for spending the night, out of the wind and rain, quiet, safe... Plus the floor was made of wood which is much better than stone to sleep on! So I got in, put on my dry clothes and lied down, wrapped in my space blanket, and I slept for 5 hours, under St James glasswindow... It must be one of my best Brevet memories...

  21. #21
    Senior Member Richard Cranium's Avatar
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    Congrats - good job. You never really know how strong you are until tested. I hope your PBP goes well - but now you'll know that even if there is adversity - somehow you will get through it......
    Sorry about my comments - I thought you wanted honest feedback.
    2003 Lemond Wayzata - 2002 LeMond Malliot Jeune

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    I don't participate in longer brevets anymore for exactly this reason. In my area, drunk driving is a huge problem, and the roads that are often selected for these rides are insane, IMO. Every cyclist takes some degree of risk when riding in traffic, but this risk is much too great for my tastes.

  23. #23
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    Another problem with riding at night on roads with two way traffic is that older drivers are often blinded by the lights of oncoming cars. This is something that happens in your sixties. SUVs and pickups have high headlights that are about the same level as the eyes of a driver of a sedan. These lights are now very bright with halogen bulbs or LEDs. When a driver is blinded like this, a cyclist or a group of cyclists becomes invisible.

    Organizers of night events should be aware of this when planning a route.

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    Quote Originally Posted by ironwood View Post
    Another problem with riding at night on roads with two way traffic is that older drivers are often blinded by the lights of oncoming cars. This is something that happens in your sixties. SUVs and pickups have high headlights that are about the same level as the eyes of a driver of a sedan. These lights are now very bright with halogen bulbs or LEDs. When a driver is blinded like this, a cyclist or a group of cyclists becomes invisible.

    Organizers of night events should be aware of this when planning a route.
    I think they actually are HIDs, and because they scatter light with such intensity unless they are matched with reflectors and lenses, they have been banned here in Australia as a retrofit to older cars.

    Of course, this doesn't stop the renegades, and they do present an irritation at best, and a danger at worst to all other road users.
    Dream. Dare. Do.

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