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First Road Bike - Safety Considerations

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Road Cycling “It is by riding a bicycle that you learn the contours of a country best, since you have to sweat up the hills and coast down them. Thus you remember them as they actually are, while in a motor car only a high hill impresses you, and you have no such accurate remembrance of country you have driven through as you gain by riding a bicycle.” -- Ernest Hemingway

First Road Bike - Safety Considerations

Old 06-30-14, 12:05 PM
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MeddlingKids
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First Road Bike - Safety Considerations

Within the last couple months, my girlfriend and I have been thinking about getting into biking. Both of us rode bikes extensively as kids, but clearly a totally different scenario compared to riding a road bike. She will only be riding hers on the weekend when we go for some coastal rides (less than 20 miles while we get more comfortable), but I will also be riding mine to work (5-6 miles each way) about 3 days per week.

Admittedly, the first time I sat on a road bike a couple weeks ago, I wasn't confident. I hadn't really ridden a bike in almost 20 years, so I needed some time to get comfy again. By the time we went to our second store the next day, I felt confident on the bike again. That said, having seen some awful driving where we live, I'm a bit nervous about the injury risks associated with road cycling/commuting on a bike. I'm super excited about having a bike again, but get a bit nervous about the idea of potential long-term injuries that might prevent me from enjoying an active life once I start having kids and approaching retirement (the latter will still be quite some time away).

I am curious whether any of you had similar concerns with taking up cycling and how things have gone so far. I plan on riding cautiously, as will my gf, but recognize that many accidents are the result of others being stupid/not paying attention.

Thanks in advance!
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Old 06-30-14, 12:36 PM
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schiiism
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What sort of area do you live in? Some cities are much more bike friendly than others. Regardless, many accidents are caused by the rider failing to signal his intent. Urban roads are safe as long as you act PREDICTABLY and cautiously. Brake early (but not unexpectedly), use hand signals, and learn the common types of accident scenarios and how to prevent them.

This details those situations pretty well: 5 Bike Commuting Safety Tips | Bicycling Magazine

I've been commuting on a road bike for three years and have (knock on wood) never been in an accident. I've been passed too closely, almost right hooked, almost left crossed (by a bus--yikes), brake checked, honked at, and tailgated (buttgated?), but it's usually few and far between. At least in socal, motorists are generally accustomed to cyclists and know how to react to them. That's not the case everywhere.

Also, there is a Commuting forum that you may want to check out for questions such as carrying loads, how to dress for biking to work, and other common concerns for commuters.

Commuting
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Old 06-30-14, 12:38 PM
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I was hit on my bike almost 2 months ago, and went for a ride within a week after (once I was cleared from the doctor). I admit I was slightly shaken from things, but being nervous will only make things worse, in my opinion.

A few of my friends have felt the same thing you are going through, some of the times I would throw them into the deep end on a ride that was on busier streets, other times (when I knew they were real nervous) I have taken it slow and gone on roads less traveled. It is up to you, you just have to be conscious about your surroundings and learn how to recognize a situation before it unfolds (as a lot of times it is up to you to avoid).

Just don't hold yourself back thinking 'what if'
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Old 06-30-14, 01:27 PM
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Thanks for the replies, everybody. We live in Brentwood, which has some pretty funky intersections I would need to avoid/be super careful around. A few months ago a guy was riding down a street by our apartment, somebody didn't see him and pulled out, and he was killed. He apparently wasn't wearing a helmet, but that particular street is pretty bad. Tons of cars parked on the side and cars zooming up both sides/passing eachother over double yellow, etc. I'll be walking my bike up and down that one.

Apart from that, my commute will be up and down a 35mph (though most people drive 45) four-lane road with a grass divider, clearly defined bike lane and few cars parked on the shoulder. Other streets running parallel are slower moving, but are filled with cars parked on the side, so the risk of getting doored is much higher.
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Old 06-30-14, 02:14 PM
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This link may be of some help.

Is Cycling Dangerous? -- The Risk of Bicycle Use -- Accidents, Fatalities, Injuries, and Benefits

Nothing is risk free, but if you exrcise some prudence and judgment, the risk riding a bike is pretty low, and more than offset by the health benefits.

The League of American Bicyclists offers training classes, which are helpful for new riders learning to commute. You might try to find one of those. There are definitely some things you can do to help protect yourself in traffic, and some instruction could be a good idea.
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Old 06-30-14, 02:45 PM
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Confidence is key. If you're riding scared, you're probably riding too far to the right of the road. When you ride too far to the right, people tend to pass too close (give them an inch and they'll take a mile).

People are scared of being hit from behind, but you're more likely to be in an accident at an intersection. (When people get hit from behind it makes the news, so we overestimate how often it happens. Classic availability heuristic.) What that means is that a lot of it is within your control. Be visible, be predictable, and above all ride defensively.
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Old 06-30-14, 02:54 PM
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Originally Posted by DXchulo View Post
Confidence is key. If you're riding scared, you're probably riding too far to the right of the road. When you ride too far to the right, people tend to pass too close (give them an inch and they'll take a mile).

People are scared of being hit from behind, but you're more likely to be in an accident at an intersection. (When people get hit from behind it makes the news, so we overestimate how often it happens. Classic availability heuristic.) What that means is that a lot of it is within your control. Be visible, be predictable, and above all ride defensively.
That's a great suggestion, and something I've heard from other friends who ride. They said people starting out tend to stay as far to the right as possible when in a lane shared amongst bikes and cars. They said that, while cars might get pissed that you're in the lane (those who don't realize the lane is shared), they at least see the cyclist.
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Old 06-30-14, 02:58 PM
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IMO your concerns will lessen quickly after a bit of riding.
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