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Safty tips for a Newb?

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Safty tips for a Newb?

Old 08-04-08, 09:19 PM
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cynicisminc
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Safty tips for a Newb?

So I bike in Santa Barbara, and where there aren't bike lanes (nearly everywhere, compared to Seattle, but don't tell the locals! They think they're so progressive; it's cute!) I try to be polite, keeping to the right so cars can pass, but nearly every day I find cars edging me onto the sidewalk or cutting me off. If I keep to the center of the lane to defend my space I feel much safer but tick off every car on the road. I was nearly bowled over today by a mustang and am beginning to sympathize with Critical Mass. How can I ride safely and politely?

I apologize if this has been addressed before (as seems likely), but these forums are now very large and I can't search effectively. Perhaps some knowing person could point me towards a useful thread?

James
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Old 08-04-08, 09:39 PM
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Get a Flash Flag that you mount at the rear of the bike and it sticks out about 18" to the side. I understand that cars give more space when passing. Also use a glasses or helmet mounted mirror so you are always aware of the traffic patterns coming up behind you. You have to pay the most attention at intersections.
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Old 08-04-08, 10:02 PM
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http://www.bikexprt.com/streetsmarts/usa/index.htm
http://massbike.org/skills/traffic.htm
http://www.bicyclesafe.com/

The best way to ride safely is to ride like any other vehicle. That way makes you most visible, because you are riding where the motorists are already looking for other traffic, and you are most predictable, so they know how to react to you. Polite is nice, but too polite is an invitation to be marginalized. There are times to ride to the right and allow passing, and times not to. The times not to include: narrow lane, intersections unless you are turning right, debris or poor pavement, when you are going the same speed or faster than other traffic, and when passing other traffic. Usually these exceptions are codified into the "ride to the right" law, but I'm not familiar with your state or local laws. (A local bike advocacy organization should be able to tell you.)

Always stop for red lights, stop signs, and observe right of way rules. Yield when someone else has the right of way, cautiously take it when it's yours. Anticipate where all the other vehicles around you are headed, and if you unsure what is going on, slow down, put your hands on the brakes, and try to look the driver in the eye.

Outside of riding to the right to allow other traffic to pass when it is safe to, you have all the same rights to the full road as car drivers, but you also have the same responsibilities. Bike lanes don't make you safe, you make you safe.

I could point out that I have hardly any bike lanes anywhere where I ride, but maybe Maine motorists are friendlier than California motorists, I don't know. Sometimes bike lanes just complicate the situation. Better to learn without them, IMO. Then you are freer to ride anywhere without being dependent on the street design of some traffic engineer who may or may even be a cyclist.

Riding more like a car will sometimes slow down a car or two behind you, but not "every car on the road", and usually not for very long. Sometimes it will help them. For example, if you are first in line stopping at a light where you are continuing straight through afterwards, and there is a combined straight through/right turn lane, stopping in the leftish portion of it will allow any right-turners behind you to go right on red, actually facilitating their passage more than if you were in a car. More importantly ,it will prevent you from being "right hooked" by them. I make it a practice to always stop at a light either in the dead center of the lane, or maybe slightly to the left of center, such as in the above example, or if I am turning left. Returning to the right after the intersection, you will not hold up the cars behind you very long. Acting predictably usually slows traffic very minimally compared to acting unpredictably.

If for some reason you do get into a situation where you must take the lane for an extended period of time (such as a narrow uphill single lane), and cars are truly starting to have to wait behind you, there is nothing wrong with being courteous enough to pull over and stop at the side to allow some cars to go by. Hopefully a gap will come along to allow to get back into the flow.

There will always be a few jerks, best to ignore them if you can. If they are really dangerous, memorize their license plate and report them. If you have a chance to speak to them, don't antagonize them.

I found that getting better at using my gears helped me to more rapidly get up to speed from an intersection stop, which helps a lot. Remember to downshift as you are stopping so that you are ready to start up again.

The links I provided have a lot of good information. A search for "safe traffic cycling" or other such phrase will give you lots of other hits, as no doubt will other respondents to this thread.

Good luck in your quest!

Last edited by JohnBrooking; 08-04-08 at 10:06 PM.
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Old 08-05-08, 08:18 AM
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Originally Posted by JohnBrooking View Post
...
I found that getting better at using my gears helped me to more rapidly get up to speed from an intersection stop, which helps a lot. Remember to downshift as you are stopping so that you are ready to start up again.
...
Great post, John. I picked out one passage because it reinforced one of my arguments against the current fixed gear and single speed fad. (I suppose it is also an argument in favor of urban commuter bikes with epicyclic internal hub gears, which can be downshifted at will whether one is moving or not.) A trick I use when I end up stopped in a high gear is to raise the rear wheel and to downshift one or both derailleur sets to a faster-launch gear.
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Old 08-05-08, 08:44 AM
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Originally Posted by cynicisminc View Post
but tick off every car on the road.
Don't worry about that. They hate you because you exist.

Be big, both in attitude and appearance. Don't hide on the on the road, be out there where they can see you. Don't shy away from cars (unless absolutely needed to avoid a hit), be bright colored and alert. When it is your right of way, take it and be seen taking your right of way. Use hand signals. Look at people, when you go, go aggessively. Be predictable, don't wobble around, make your moves smooth and consistent.
I have used a flag mounted sideway out to the left of my handlebars in the past. It definately works to eliminate close passes, but limits your maneurverability. My flag stuck out to the left about 32" and was armed with a shiny metal point and a flag. While using it I never experienced a close pass.
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Old 08-05-08, 08:49 AM
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Originally Posted by JohnBrooking View Post
[
I found that getting better at using my gears helped me to more rapidly get up to speed from an intersection stop, which helps a lot. Remember to downshift as you are stopping so that you are ready to start up again.

:
This definately helps. I ride with a friend who is slow away from stops, slow shifting, slow getting clipped into his clipless pedals, and wobbly. People are impatient with him and cut in front of all the time. Whatever you do, go ahead and hit it hard when you accelerate from stops.
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Old 08-05-08, 09:24 AM
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I've found this website http://bicyclesafe.com/

and these books useful

http://www.johnforester.com/Articles/bikebooks.htm - Effective Cycling by J Forester
http://www.cyclecraft.co.uk/ - Cyclecraft by J Franklin
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Don't run red lights, wear a helmet, use hand signals, get some cycle lights(front and rear) and, FFS, don't run red lights!
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Old 08-05-08, 12:20 PM
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From my 4 months of commuting, here are the basics...

- Take the lane. The whole lane. All the time. If you're on the stripes, you'll get no room by cars whizzing by.
- When possible, use side roads instead of main highways or busy streets.
- Helmet. I've already crashed once (my fault), and the $40 I spent on it no doubt saved a $4000 hospital bill.
- Seat bag full of tools, tube, tire gauge, batteries, etc.
- Headlight. My $30 light needs upgrading, but it's good enough to see & be seen.

- And without a doubt, the most important safety tip/tool you can use is a PLANET BIKE SUPERFLASH. I got buzzed 2-3 times a day before I got my SuperFlash. In the 3 months since I got it I've been buzzed twice.
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Old 08-05-08, 02:58 PM
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Don't ride like most people drive...aka.....DON"T BE AN IDIOT
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Originally Posted by Wordbiker View Post

What's frightening is how coherent Hickey was in posting that.
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Old 08-05-08, 03:04 PM
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Originally Posted by John E View Post
A trick I use when I end up stopped in a high gear is to raise the rear wheel and to downshift one or both derailleur sets to a faster-launch gear.
Easy way to pull this off is to lock your front brake and push forward on the handlebars, as long as the back end of your bike isn't too heavy that is. (Full pannier weighing more than the bike itself makes this tricky)
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Old 08-05-08, 03:15 PM
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If you find yourself in an umcomfortable situation with a vehicle, whip out your cell phone, and call his licence plate number outloud, and draw a crowd if necessary. It will have protective effects.
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Old 12-16-10, 12:36 PM
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Here is a great article of bicycle safety tips.
http://www.montaguebikes.com/folding...e-on-the-road/
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Old 12-16-10, 01:58 PM
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With experience you'll determine how wide a lane has to be before you can stay to the right and not get passed too closely, versus controlling the full lane. If you're very near the side of the lane and you're getting close passes, look back to find a safe opportunity, and merge toward the center of the lane.

Don't feel bad if you change your mind about a particular road being wide enough to ride on the right or not. Some roads are marginal in width, and traffic conditions can change your experience. On downtown streets with more than one lane in your direction and lots of turning traffic, you'll probably find yourself controlling the right through lane all the time. On suburban arterials with 14' and wider lanes you'll probably find yourself staying to the right most of the time, merging into the center of the lane at intersections or when traveling fast downhill.

I dislike busy roads with only one narrow lane in each direction. If you stay right you are likely to get passed closely, but if you control the lane it is more likely to delay drivers due to the oncoming traffic. Do what makes you comfortable. I find these roads to be no problem in very heavy traffic that is moving slowly (I keep up with the traffic) or very light traffic (because drivers can use the oncoming lane to pass), but in between these extremes I prefer to seek alternate routes with more or wider lanes, or less traffic.

Last time I visited Santa Barbara I was impressed at the number of cyclists - far more than here in Cary, NC, where I bike commute. Most of the major roads seemed to have some extra width; the more urban downtown streets seemed quite safe for controlling the lane as long as one used good lights at night.

Last edited by sggoodri; 12-16-10 at 02:02 PM.
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Old 12-16-10, 01:58 PM
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Ride a lot--experience makes you better in a short time.
Stay focused.
Watch the surface as well as the traffic. When I was new, I had a number of falls on road debris but never had a crash with another vehicle.
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Old 12-16-10, 02:00 PM
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Originally Posted by sggoodri View Post
With experience you'll determine how wide a lane has to be before you can stay to the right and not get passed too closely, versus controlling the full lane. If you're very near the side of the lane and you're getting close passes, look back to find a safe opportunity, and merge toward the center of the lane.

Don't feel bad if you change your mind about a particular road being wide enough to ride on the right or not. Some roads are marginal in width, and traffic conditions can change your experience. On downtown streets with more than one lane in your direction and lots of turning traffic, you'll probably find yourself controlling the right through lane all the time. On suburban arterials with 14' and wider lanes you'll probably find yourself staying to the right most of the time, merging into the center of the lane at intersections or when traveling fast downhill.

I dislike busy roads with only one narrow lane in each direction. If you stay right you are likely to get passed closely, but if you control the lane it is more likely to delay drivers due to the oncoming traffic. Do what makes you comfortable. I find these roads to be no problem in very heavy traffic that is moving slowly or very light traffic because drivers can use the oncoming lane to pass, but in between these extremes I prefer to seek alternate routes with more or wider lanes, or less traffic.
A perceptual trick helps me with these problems. Instead of judging my distance from the right side of the lane or road, I judge my distance from the left side.
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Old 12-16-10, 02:24 PM
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Originally Posted by cynicisminc View Post
How can I ride safely and politely?
To some extent, these goals are in conflict. You'll have to get used to drivers being angry at you, but keep in mind that psychopaths are extremely rare in the real world, and not usually functional enough to be commuting to their desk job ... so people might honk at you, but they won't run you down or shoot you.
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Old 12-16-10, 03:52 PM
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Good advice in this thread. I would strongly suggest looking up the local advocacy group and seeing if they offer any classes on riding in traffic. A good class will quickly get you the skills and confidence that make riding much more enjoyable.
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Old 12-16-10, 05:47 PM
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Originally Posted by sggoodri View Post
...Last time I visited Santa Barbara I was impressed at the number of cyclists - far more than here in Cary, NC, where I bike commute. Most of the major roads seemed to have some extra width; the more urban downtown streets seemed quite safe for controlling the lane as long as one used good lights at night.
I've never had trouble riding in or near Santa Barbara. With the posible exception of one climb south of the city that was steep, narrow and like a corkscrew. Turns any rider that is not at least a cat 2 racer into a sanil and no place to pass. I can understand a driver getting impatient, heck I would get impatient that the climb hadn't ended.

But I also never rode State Street. I'd stay way from it as much as possible. Busy, but more important many tourist locations. A driver looking for such is not good for cyclists.

Oops almost forgot, Santa Barbara has some interesting traffic paterns, often one street will cars racing from stop sign to stop sign and one over is a nice quiet street, even thought physically they are the same (except for which one goes through for 6 mile and which does not).
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Old 12-16-10, 11:29 PM
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Originally Posted by sggoodri View Post
With experience you'll determine how wide a lane has to be before you can stay to the right and not get passed too closely, versus controlling the full lane. If you're very near the side of the lane and you're getting close passes, look back to find a safe opportunity, and merge toward the center of the lane.

Don't feel bad if you change your mind about a particular road being wide enough to ride on the right or not. Some roads are marginal in width, and traffic conditions can change your experience. On downtown streets with more than one lane in your direction and lots of turning traffic, you'll probably find yourself controlling the right through lane all the time. On suburban arterials with 14' and wider lanes you'll probably find yourself staying to the right most of the time, merging into the center of the lane at intersections or when traveling fast downhill.

I dislike busy roads with only one narrow lane in each direction. If you stay right you are likely to get passed closely, but if you control the lane it is more likely to delay drivers due to the oncoming traffic. Do what makes you comfortable. I find these roads to be no problem in very heavy traffic that is moving slowly (I keep up with the traffic) or very light traffic (because drivers can use the oncoming lane to pass), but in between these extremes I prefer to seek alternate routes with more or wider lanes, or less traffic.
This is great advice.
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Old 12-17-10, 01:14 AM
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Originally Posted by cynicisminc View Post
So I bike in Santa Barbara, and where there aren't bike lanes (nearly everywhere, compared to Seattle, but don't tell the locals! They think they're so progressive; it's cute!) I try to be polite, keeping to the right so cars can pass, but nearly every day I find cars edging me onto the sidewalk or cutting me off. If I keep to the center of the lane to defend my space I feel much safer but tick off every car on the road. I was nearly bowled over today by a mustang and am beginning to sympathize with Critical Mass. How can I ride safely and politely?

I apologize if this has been addressed before (as seems likely), but these forums are now very large and I can't search effectively. Perhaps some knowing person could point me towards a useful thread?

James
You need to 'stand your ground' in a sense. Just like the Critical Mass rides.
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Old 12-17-10, 09:31 AM
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Originally Posted by cynicisminc View Post
If I keep to the center of the lane to defend my space I feel much safer but tick off every car on the road.
You know how they push you around and cut you off if you hug the edge? Remember that and enjoy your vengeance.

Seriously though, them not getting it is their problem. Your safety is yours. Ride where you feel safest.


Also, if you're just starting out you may not have learned the routes to get around these obnoxious overcrowded roads. You'll find them in time. They may not be bike friendly (although that's contrary to what I've heard), but I bet Santa Barbara is far more progressive than Seattle.
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Old 12-17-10, 10:16 AM
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Forget polite, think more about your safety. It's up to you to pick the times to allow cars to pass you when it's safe. If you stay to the right it serves as an invitation to drivers to pass you without changing lanes which is probably one of the most dangerous situations for a cyclist.

Great resources for education about lane positioning and navigating in traffic can be found at CommuteOlrando and their spin-off site, CyclingSavvy A good article to start with (containing some greate video) is You Lead the Dance.

I've been to Orlando on business and despite lots of bike lanes, it is one of the more hazardous places for transportation cyclists. The folks at Commute Orlando are experts and provide well-informed advice.
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Originally Posted by bragi "However, it's never a good idea to overgeneralize."
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Old 12-17-10, 10:24 AM
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Maybe a little creative route choice is what you need more than anything. If you are trying to ride the same route that you drive, for instance, that is probably not the best way to go. Often cyclists in the US find that one block over from the street where they are staging a monumental fight for space and safety is a very quiet route that is much, much easier to deal with on a bike.
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Old 12-17-10, 10:34 AM
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Originally Posted by cynicisminc View Post
How can I ride safely and politely?
There is one stretch on my commute where there is a 40 mph speed limit (drivers frequently go 50) on a country two-lane with no shoulder. The "polite" thing to do for me in this case is to clearly state my intentions to drivers approaching from behind. I generally ride in the middle of the lane, betwen the tire tracks. I have a helmet mirror and keep an eye on traffic behind me. If cars are approaching and the oncoming lane is clear, I will hold my line. Cars will pull into the oncoming lane to pass me. As they do, I move slightly to the right to give them more room. If there is oncoming traffic (this road includes a blind curve), I will emphatically put my left arm out and down at 45 degrees, palm back, fingers extended to tell cars behind me that it is NOT SAFE TO PASS. When the oncoming lane clears, I will slide to the right a bit and perhaps even wave them around. Through communication, the drivers realize that I just saved them from an accident or at least a close call, and they usually give me a wave or a friendly honk after they pass. Making a car slow down is not necessarily impolite.
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Originally Posted by bragi "However, it's never a good idea to overgeneralize."
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Old 12-17-10, 06:03 PM
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take the lane
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