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Advocacy & Safety Cyclists should expect and demand safe accommodation on every public road, just as do all other users. Discuss your bicycle advocacy and safety concerns here.

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Old 06-15-05, 02:41 PM   #1
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So just how safe am I?

I'm a returning cyclist after many years away from the sport. Trying to get in shape partly by riding my new Trek 3900 4-5x a week. And I love it. I ride mostly on streets, and that's about half and half major arteries and semi-deserted side streets. Occasionally i'll bring the bike to a MUP (is that the right acronym?) or a dedicated bike trail like the two-way bike road down Silver Strand in Coronado, San Diego.

Anyway, I've been reading all these posts since I found this forum about accidents and such, and it's freaking me out. Just how safe (or unsafe) am I riding in San Diego's urban environment? Should I just tote the bike over to dedicated bike trails and forget the street riding?

I'm 54, I don't hot dog, I am not Mr. Speedy Gonzales, I would rather stop than challenge a car who may be thinking of turning right and cutting me off. I willing to take responsibility that there's some risk out there, but how bad is it?

I'm having second thoughts now! (Except on bike trails away from streets, but that's a hassle to have to bring the bike on the car to the trial.)
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Old 06-15-05, 02:50 PM   #2
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I really wouldn't worry too much about it. Probably safer than driving, just be aware of your surroundings, ride defensively, stay off the busier arterials and don't take on challenges above your skill level; you'll only get better with practice.
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Old 06-15-05, 02:57 PM   #3
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It has to depend on your city. See if you can get some feedback from fellow San Diegans. Road peril is a relatively small concern to me (in Vancouver), but some of the things I've read on this forum give me the jibblies.

I do agree, though, that practice will ease your anxiety. My mom's advice is the best; be careful, have fun. She also said something about "big city girls," but I don't remember exactly what.
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Old 06-15-05, 03:00 PM   #4
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It's not what you do, it how you do it.

I've done 120,000 kms. in and around Vancouver and have had very few problems.
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Old 06-15-05, 03:24 PM   #5
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It's also where you do it... I mean, after all, riding on some roads at rush hour takes some skill... others are "tree lined lanes" in the park.

I commute on 45MPH 6 lane roads at rush hour... it can be both good riding and a bit hair raising... I do focus extensively on what traffic is doing around me, and not so much on the exercise aspect.

I put myself in a similar situation as you... I am 49 and just started commuting again after a 2 year hiatus... after having been pretty regular commuter for about 30 years. (job changes and other things tended to put me off every now and then)

Getting back on the bike took a bit of getting used to... I did not feel steady, I had no legs, and the bike felt strange again in my hands... but my mind (silly thing) remembered me as a "cycling champ."

I rode a path for a few months until I felt comfortable on the bike... until it started feeling like "part of me" again... then I hit the streets and am starting to feel like the old road warrior again... (and trying to remember why in the heck I stopped in the first place... )

Take it slow... make sure you and the bike work well together before you thrust yourself back onto the streets. And watch those intersections on the Strand... Motorists may not even see you on the MUP. Heck, they don't see each other sometimes.
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Old 06-15-05, 04:01 PM   #6
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These forums are a bit like the news- the small number of unusual and dangerous events are reported, whereas the hundreds or thousands of perfectly safe commutes are not mentioned.

So don't sweat it- ride for yourself in your own environment and decide using your own judgement. Riding in traffic after a long hiatus might take getting a bit used to, but it's something we've all been through here.

I guess it's kind of a sad reflection on the level of fear in modern Western society that an internet forum might stop someone from riding a bicycle.





* By Western, I guess I mean American and to a lesser extent Aussie/UK. I've not noticed it so much in other Western countries.

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Old 06-15-05, 07:24 PM   #7
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You need to learn vehicular cycling. http://www.johnforester.com/Articles/bikebooks.htm
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Old 06-15-05, 07:31 PM   #8
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Quote:
Originally Posted by womble
These forums are a bit like the news- the small number of unusual and dangerous events are reported, whereas the hundreds or thousands of perfectly safe commutes are not mentioned.

So don't sweat it- ride for yourself in your own environment and decide using your own judgement. Riding in traffic after a long hiatus might take getting a bit used to, but it's something we've all been through here.

I guess it's kind of a sad reflection on the level of fear in modern Western society that an internet forum might stop someone from riding a bicycle.





* By Western, I guess I mean American and to a lesser extent Aussie/UK. I've not noticed it so much in other Western countries.

Yep, womble beat me to it. Have fun and just use common sense.
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Old 06-15-05, 07:49 PM   #9
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Here's a good link to help you avoid problems

http://www.bicyclesafe.com/index.html
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Old 06-15-05, 08:08 PM   #10
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I cant remember when I last got hassled by a bad mannered driver, but it does happen. More bike accidents happen on bike paths than roads because many people seem to think they are safe there, and dont need to watch what they are doing. Roads with wide outside lanes are the safest. Just watch what is going on around you and enjoy it.
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Old 06-15-05, 08:45 PM   #11
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Digital Gee

Anyway, I've been reading all these posts since I found this forum about accidents and such, and it's freaking me out. Just how safe (or unsafe) am I riding in San Diego's urban environment? Should I just tote the bike over to dedicated bike trails and forget the street riding?
My advice: Ignore the scare mongoring by various ideologues using wacky interpretations of shaky statistics, (if not their own fantasies/fabricated constructs) to sell various "safety" programs, materials or equipment.

Look around for yourself and draw your own conclusions about safety and faring best, you'll be happier and less stressed out by not taking seriously the doomsday ideology/predictions of the Chicken Littles of Cycling.

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Old 06-15-05, 08:59 PM   #12
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Originally Posted by closetbiker
Here's a good link to help you avoid problems

http://www.bicyclesafe.com/index.html
I second this!
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Old 06-15-05, 09:18 PM   #13
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Thanks so much for starting this thread! I have felt the same way and I'm still new, too, but the advice you've received is good. I'm feeling a little more comfortable with my commute every day but staying on roads that I can handle until I'm more experienced. Enjoy!
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Old 06-15-05, 09:53 PM   #14
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Digital Gee, the dangers of cycling, whether in traffic or elsewhere, are grossly exagerated. This forum only shows the very worst and is not representative of the dangers. Don't listen to non-cyclists, either, because they don't know.

I've been riding regularly for well over 40 years and even made some mistakes over that time, and I've not had a serious accident (or even a minor one, for that matter).

Learn the basic tactics and learn to handle your bike. A compact "bicycle driver's manual" with practical advice is Street Smarts, which is available online. You won't go wrong with that. Other books and websites say similar things.
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Old 06-15-05, 09:58 PM   #15
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Thanks everyone! I appreciate everyone who took the time to respond to this thread, and I've learned some things from the link, and I'm definately not giving up cycling! I will, however, avoid as much as possible the busier streets and look for side streets to reach the same destinaiton whenever possible. I feel much better now!
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Old 06-16-05, 06:51 AM   #16
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Digital Gee
Thanks everyone! I appreciate everyone who took the time to respond to this thread, and I've learned some things from the link, and I'm definately not giving up cycling! I will, however, avoid as much as possible the busier streets and look for side streets to reach the same destinaiton whenever possible. I feel much better now!
Good plan. Remember that you are not in a race or competing with anyone and enjoy your ride at your own pace and in your own way. You have no need to meet the arbitrary standards of speed, efficiency, and cycling correctness promoted on this forum by a few self proclaimed cycling gurus. Set your own goals and objectives, listen to advice (if you wish) from those who share, or at least understand, those goals and you will enjoy safe and pleasant cycling wherever/whenever you ride.
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Old 06-16-05, 07:21 AM   #17
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Cycling is very much a case of the benifits outweighing the risks (IMHO). By riding you increase your chances of all sorts of horrible accidents. By not riding you increase your chances of a slow decline in overall health and life quality as the years tick by, your heart becomes clogged, your muscles atrophied, and your joints pained.

Besides when not riding you will sometimes be driving, thereby again increasing your risk of all sorts of horrible accidents, but not decreasing your risk of a decline in health.

Keep riding, Keep enjoying life, make sure everyone knows how happy it makes you, and use it or lose it.
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Old 06-16-05, 07:34 AM   #18
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There are risks associated with many of life's activities. We are aware of them and we exercise due care, but people who dwell excessively on life's risks can't enjoy life.
I'd say that's the biggest risk of all--coming to the end of your life and realizing you've missed out on the things that you enjoy.

There is an element of risk to bicycling. But the level of risk varies greatly with the knowledge, skill and caution exercised, much like driving a car. You can't eliminate the risks altogether, but that's life.

Remember that the physical and mental health benefits of cycling far outweigh any of the risks. There are also risks of dying early from diseases related to physical inactivity.
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Old 06-16-05, 08:21 AM   #19
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I've worried about alot of things in my life, most of which never happened. I say put it out of your mind because if it happens, it happens and there's nothing you can do about it other than lock the bike in the shed and walk on the sidewalks, but who's to say that someones poodle won't jump from a 10th floor windows and land on your head?
I can almost guarantee you that more people are injurred in by straining too hard while taking a dump per year than cyclists riding correctly on the roadways.

EDIT
I just read (while looking for injury statistics) that over the last 60 years donkeys have killed more people per year than commercial flights.
teh funny

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Old 06-16-05, 08:47 AM   #20
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I've been road cycling for about 25 years, both commuting and for recreation; I've had only two injuries worth mentioning; both were from falls related to poor surface conditions that I didn't handle well while maneuvering. I've never had a collision with an automobile. I've had one minor collision with another cyclist, a friend who hit the brakes when riding in front of me after asking me what was behind us.

It's my understanding that cycling is generally safer in terms of injury rate per duration of participation than other sports. Bicycling fatalities are rare; they happen, but are less likely than with other popular activities like swimming and motorcycling. taking basic care such as following the road rules for vehicles, behaving visibly and predictably, and paying attention to conditions ahead make cycling even safer than the stats make it look.

A lot of us who participate in safety discussions concentrate on a small number of negative things in order to try to make cycling even safer, through better public education, law enforcement, or engineering. Somebody has to study cycling accident issues in order to promote the public welfare. But the truth is that everybody reading this enjoys cycling and has no hesitation about encouraging you to ride. It's at least as safe as it is fun.
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Old 06-16-05, 09:25 AM   #21
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As a new rider in NYC, I've had to get used to riding in traffic a lot. A book, I think it's called 'The Art of Urban Cycling' has some nice info on assertive (not stupid) riding techniques. I used to live and ride in SD a little bit, but compared to the way I ride here, I was totally oblivious there. San Diego can lull you into a false sense of complacency. The fact that you're reading up on this forum shows a good deal of foresight on your part.

NYC riding is tough because there is so much and such a wide variety of traffic. However, it does have one very nice thing going for it--for the most part, cars move fairly slowly. On a recent trip back to San Diego, I borrowed a friend's mountain bike and rode around Hillcrest. I was kind of freaked by the speed of the vehicles there, and the fact that it seemed fairly apparent that drivers didn't know how to respect bicyclists much. I also think that there's more of the SoCal road rage issue to think about. Yes, NYers can be nasty and loud and aggressive, but they're always like that, and they get over it quickly, and tend to have short memories when it comes to confrontation. I had a friend who once witnessed a road-enraged, older woman actually drive her car into a cyclist on Washington St. one time. He said the cyclist wasn't seriously injured, but was badly shaken up. I don't think that happens a lot there, and I'm not trying to sensationalize, I'm just pointing out what I think might be a worry for you there in San Diego. (Here in NY, it's getting doored or being sandwiched between a trash truck and a bus. :b) Here I'm more concerned with staying with the flow of traffic and being visible. There, I'd say I was more worried about oblivious drivers and intense speeds.

I actually ended up riding the sidewalks and crosswalks a lot there--nice thing in Southern California, people just don't use the sidewalks much --especially at slower speeds.

All of these conditions aside, I'd say that the more aware you are of the risks, and the better prepared you are to deal with them, the less fearful you'll feel. Every day that I go out, I feel a little more empowered to ride wherever I need to get to and deal with any problems I'm faced with on the way.

Besides that, SD has a number of great things going for it for cycling:

1. Weather. Not only can you ride every day of the year, you don't even really need to worry about having completely different outfits or changing your tires in the winter, getting special gloves and booties and a balaclava and all that.

2. Roads. Oh those roads and streets are nice. Always freshly-paved and a lot of well-designed bike lanes. I used to work at a traffic engineering firm there, and bike lane design was always considered. Also, the roads are almost ALL wide. Plenty of room for you and several other bikers.

3. Geography. All that area by the beaches, so flat and so rideable.

4. High price of gas . I know that anyone from SD knows what I'm talking about. When I was there, my friend came home proclaiming that he had just spent over 3 bucks/gal. on regular for the first time in his life. You ask me, this is reason enough.

5. Public transportation. ...sucks. So how else are you going to get around?

Now, after all that junk, I'll share one insight that has gradually been coming to me over the past week: when riding with cars around, speed can be a great friend. I've always been fairly afraid of speeding, be it in cars or the subway or on the bike. But just as I learned to keep my speed up driving on freeways in SoCal, so I've learned that it's good to do that when you're on a bike around traffic. It's another aspect of being assertive and gaining the respect of the drivers around you, and it will help. Try to learn not to just slow down every time you get freaked. Maybe ride faster in places where there are fewer cars at first. I also found riding at night on big streets that are busy during the day to help me feel comfortable with the geography of the city itself. That way, during the day, I can deal with the traffic more and worry about where I'm going less.

Good luck, and stay alert. Once you've become comfortable riding around, you won't understand why everyone else doesn't do it,

max

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Old 06-16-05, 11:41 AM   #22
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NYC riding is tough because there is so much and such a wide variety of traffic. However, it does have one very nice thing going for it--for the most part, cars move fairly slowly. On a recent trip back to San Diego, I borrowed a friend's mountain bike and rode around Hillcrest. I was kind of freaked by the speed of the vehicles there, and the fact that it seemed fairly apparent that drivers didn't know how to respect bicyclists much. I also think that there's more of the SoCal road rage issue to think about. Yes, NYers can be nasty and loud and aggressive, but they're always like that, and they get over it quickly, and tend to have short memories when it comes to confrontation. I had a friend who once witnessed a road-enraged, older woman actually drive her car into a cyclist on Washington St. one time. He said the cyclist wasn't seriously injured, but was badly shaken up. I don't think that happens a lot there, and I'm not trying to sensationalize, I'm just pointing out what I think might be a worry for you there in San Diego. (Here in NY, it's getting doored or being sandwiched between a trash truck and a bus. :b) Here I'm more concerned with staying with the flow of traffic and being visible. There, I'd say I was more worried about oblivious drivers and intense speeds.
The thing you are missing is that San Diego is a real mix... you can go from Hillcrest "semi-urban" riding to Pacific Coast Hiway and 55MPH in just a few miles and to places like Miramar road or Genesee of 50 MPH and 4-6 lane heavy commute fame in just 10 more miles. Going east out about 12-15 miles and you are into rural 2 lane hiway... at bit further and you are into steep climbs and windy mountain roads.

One thing San Diego is not is flat. There are even climbs around the beach areas.

I do believe that car culture is king here, hence your feeling of the road rage issues. What is really surprising is the weather should put people outside more and wanting to do physical activities... such as cycling. But there seems to be little respect for cyclists in general... I think part of that may be due to the economics of the area and the pressures that they bring. (time is money... hence everyone is outta time)
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Old 06-16-05, 11:50 AM   #23
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Has anyone said lately how fantastic this forum is? Well, if not, let me. I've learned a lot from this thread and many more, and I'm loving my new bike and my rides in San Diego. Yesterday, it was along Coronado Strand. Today, the MUP along the San Diego so-called River. As always, throughout my neighborhoods of University Heights, North Park, Hillcrest. This weekend, perhaps out to the lighthouse on Point Loma.

Anyway, thanks again everyone. I'll keep my own counsel about how fast I wanna go, what risks I'm willing to take, etc, and not try to be King of the Road too quickly. Afterall, I'm doing this for FUN and FITNESS. Fun first, fitness next.

Oh, and also to impress women. ROFLMAO!
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Old 06-16-05, 11:57 AM   #24
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Oh, and also to impress women. ROFLMAO!
Learn how to stick out your tongue and lick your eyebrows, that gets 'em every time.
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Old 06-16-05, 12:00 PM   #25
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Oh, and also to impress women. ROFLMAO!

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