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Safety on the motor vehicle roads while touring

Old 04-15-21, 12:27 AM
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Indigo82
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Safety on motor vehicle roads while touring

A couple of days ago a car driving in opposite direction to me was overtaking another vehicle over a solid white line. It passed just a meter away from me going towards me at full speed. This made me think if I want to stay on the asphalt roads or do more bikepacking when possible for my own safety.

What are your tips on how to be safer on motor vehicles roads while touring? Thank you.
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Old 04-15-21, 02:32 AM
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This may sound trite, but in my experience all you can do is be visible, stay alert and be careful.
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Old 04-15-21, 03:13 AM
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We try to avoid the larger roads and use bike paths whenever possible. Our Garmin Explorer seems to be excellent at finding smaller roads and gravel paths when using the default point to point routing.

There have been times when we have been forced to do a significant deviation due to deeming a road section unsafe.
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Old 04-15-21, 03:23 AM
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Originally Posted by Indigo82 View Post
A couple of days ago a car driving in opposite direction to me was overtaking another vehicle over a solid white line. It passed just a meter away from me going towards me at full speed. This made me think if I want to stay on the asphalt roads or do more bikepacking when possible for my own safety.
....
Same exact thing happened to me five years ago. About one or two seconds before we passed on the road is when the driver turned into my lane. What you described is a driver that is not looking where he or she is going.

When on such roads, I wear high vis color jersey or jacket.

I do not keep a front light on during the day when touring, but I need to start re-thinking that when the traffic is busy and there is no shoulder. But the same thing has happened to me many times when I was driving a motorcycle with a bright headlight on, so a light is not a magic answer either.

From behind, flashing taillight in daytime, if foggy or overcast sometimes use two such taillights. I always tour with two taillights, usually one is off and serves as a spare.

I usually schedule my tours for a month or two before the busy season. I want to be going home when most of the out-of-town tourists start arriving when I travel to somewhere that has a lot of tourism, I do not want to be on the roads when they are busier.
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Old 04-15-21, 05:47 AM
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We follow the tips above concerning road choices and visibility. If I stopped driving or crossing the street due to accidents or near misses, I would have stopped driving and walking a long time ago.

my other thought is to check out the Cycling Savvey website. They approach bike safety with the need to be on the road with motor vehicles. I think their online education courses are worth taking and you can ask them questions. I do not agree with their overall philosophy but I think they offer good support for those of us who must share the road.
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Old 04-15-21, 06:24 AM
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Like others have said...
1. Wear bright clothing. I see so many people with dark clothing on bikes, its a pet peeve. Well... that and a creaky drive train
2. Plan your tour ahead of time, identifying low traffic roads. You may need to go miles off the straight shot route, but so what, the goal of touring is not to win the tour.
3. Be aware of conditions, get a mirror, listen, you see a big truck coming or a house pulling a car (Road Vermin) or cars backing up, consider pulling over to let them pass.
4. Get a very bright rear light that flashes, e.g. hot shot. If caught on busy road switch it on, it makes a difference.
5. On low visibility days, have a front light on that flashes brightly.

We are not the only people that have travelled >150,000 mi over the years on bike and not died or had a major accident.
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Old 04-15-21, 06:53 AM
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Life is dangerous. There are risks no matter what we do. I figure you need to just ride reasonably and accept the risks or don't ride. Yes do take the proper precautions, but don't obsess, enjoy the ride.

As far as touring... I don't find it any more dangerous than riding around town at home. In fact I have generally found it less so, since more of it is out on the open road. I have crossed the US a couple times and done a number of other long tours and accidents and close calls were nearly all at home around town.
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Old 04-15-21, 06:59 AM
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I cycled a rural Arizona road last week, a busy two-line state highway near Prescott. There were a lot slow-moving vehicles on long hills, and there were a lot of legal passing zones. Anxious motorists weren't about to be deterred by an on-coming bike on the 4' shoulder. In that one 15 mile stretch, I had more vehicles pass me head-on in "my" lane than I have in my whole life before that. It's unnerving. But I was able to easily anticipate it and learned to live with it. If I hadn't had a safe shoulder, I'd have ditched off the road when I could see the situation arising.

Once I was walking a similar highway at night facing traffic. I would walk on pavement if I could see no headlights coming. Then I thought about traffic coming from behind, and what if someone decided to pass another car. So I stepped off the pavement when I heard traffic coming from behind, and sure enough, there were two cars side-by-side passing. That was a "Code Brown" moment.

I'm curious where you live if passing is prohibited by a solid white line. Here that's just a lane edge.
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Old 04-15-21, 07:08 AM
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I've had this happen a handful of times over the decades, but while it was unnerving the first time, the other times I had time to realize that I had both time and space to move over a bit, and as I knew I was not in mortal danger, I shrugged it off.
No I wasn't happy with the impatient jerk, but I realize that these are extremely rare occurrences.

I come back to this comment all the time, that being situationally aware and alert at all times is the most important part of cycling.
I ride daily in a large city, and one constantly needs to be alert as much as possible, and i find that most "concerning situations " have signs that give us a heads up of a few seconds, simply from being attentive and observing well.

touch wood though.

think of when we drive our cars, people do selfish dumbass stuff regularly.

hopefully by riding more in urban settings you get more comfortable with traffic, but let's face it, a quiet road is always so much more relaxing and enjoyable.
In the end, only you know how you are as a rider, so choose your riding for what you are comfortable with. Strangers can't tell you.
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Old 04-15-21, 07:33 AM
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This has been said a few times but I can't stress it enough: stay on the least busy roads possible (within reason.) Fewer cars means less chance of getting hit by one. Besides that, it's also much more enjoyable and less stressful. Small, rural roads haven't been straightened and flattened out as much as big highways, so drivers really do have to keep their eyes on the road. Or they'll end up in the ditch. Compared to a big highway where they might browse their phone for a full minute (traveling more than a mile) without paying much attention.

Oddly, I also sometimes enjoy blasting through busy downtown cities. When there's a lot of traffic, it goes slower, and I can usually keep up on a bike. But you must be very careful and assume you're invisible. I've avoided countless crashes because I knew that car was going to turn in front of me before it happened.
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Old 04-15-21, 11:19 AM
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Originally Posted by debade View Post
We follow the tips above concerning road choices and visibility. If I stopped driving or crossing the street due to accidents or near misses, I would have stopped driving and walking a long time ago.

my other thought is to check out the Cycling Savvey website. They approach bike safety with the need to be on the road with motor vehicles. I think their online education courses are worth taking and you can ask them questions. I do not agree with their overall philosophy but I think they offer good support for those of us who must share the road.
I am involved with teaching bike safety in our school district. In our program we teach the kids, 5th graders, to ride on the roads. Our graduation ride culminates with a ride around our small city, including busy traffic, turns at traffic signals and stop signs, and rules of the road; essentially everything you would teach a young motor vehicle driver. I was really sad to see Oregon adopt the "Idaho Stop" for cyclists: slow down at the stop sign, and if it is clear, ride through it. My point is that we advocate using the roads, but not as aggressively as the Cycling Savvey folks.

This was part of our route through Iowa while riding Highway 20 across the U.S. As folks said, situational awareness is important. Often trucks would come up behind us and we could see things getting tight. We just pulled off and made friends with a couple of truckers. We could also see approaching trucks getting set up to do a pass, and would also pull over onto the shoulder. The situation required a lot of vigilance, but we did not think it was unsafe or dangerous.

Last edited by Doug64; 04-15-21 at 02:06 PM.
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Old 04-15-21, 11:53 AM
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Traffic was so heavy on this stretch of road that for a hefty distance I rode on the very loose gravel on the side, the pavement part of the shoulder was not as wide as I wanted to feel comfortable.



I judged "heavy" traffic here as when the vehicles in the right lane are close to each other, you can assume that many if not most drivers did not see you at a long distance because the car in front of them obscured their vision and they would not see you until they were only seconds away.

If my memory is correct, this was at the end of climbing a long steep hill, steep enough that there were two lanes up the hill but only one lane going the other direction, the two lanes merge into one a short distance ahead.

The gravel was loose enough that I had to walk some of the hill, if the paved shoulder was wider I could have ridden it but I did not trust riding that close to the traffic on a shoulder that narrow on that busy of a road. This was Trans Canada highway.
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Old 04-15-21, 12:48 PM
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Originally Posted by FastJake View Post
...Oddly, I also sometimes enjoy blasting through busy downtown cities. When there's a lot of traffic, it goes slower, and I can usually keep up on a bike. But you must be very careful and assume you're invisible. I've avoided countless crashes because I knew that car was going to turn in front of me before it happened.
Heck yeah, cycling can be fun that way. Talk about adrenaline, that kind of cycling in traffic. I've always known that cycling is not for the risk-averse. But the benefits are worth it.
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Old 04-15-21, 02:31 PM
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Originally Posted by Doug64 View Post
This was part of our route through Iowa while riding Highway 20 across the U.S. As folks said, situational awareness is important. Often trucks would come up behind us and we could see things getting tight. We just pulled off and made friends with a couple of truckers. We could also see approaching trucks getting set up to do a pass, and would also pull over onto the shoulder. The situation required a lot of vigilance, but we did not think it was unsafe or dangerous.
I really like that you mention this Doug, as I regularly do the same thing.
It's a total win-win for everyone involved.

To me its simply being considerate, and although I'm not a truck driver, I can easily appreciate that driving a large and heavy vehicle just can't be stopped quickly and or fit into a teeny tiny space with another oncoming truck, with the possibility of sqwershing a cyclist and ruining everyones day.....
I have no problem seeing a potential tricky situation 5 or 10 seconds into the future, and avoiding it simply by pulling over and signalling to the trucks that they don't have to try to second guess what the cyclist is going to do.
And as you said, if a trucker has been lining up a pass for a long time, or is coming down a hill with lots of momentum, its just considerate to make things easier for him and taking 20 seconds out of my day isnt a problem for me.

this touches on why I really like wider tires, because I can hop onto all kinds of shoulders of varying softness or roughness with my 2 inch Supremes and stay in control and not get beat up bumpiness wise.
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Old 04-15-21, 02:35 PM
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Originally Posted by Tourist in MSN View Post
Traffic was so heavy on this stretch of road that for a hefty distance I rode on the very loose gravel on the side, the pavement part of the shoulder was not as wide as I wanted to feel comfortable.



I judged "heavy" traffic here as when the vehicles in the right lane are close to each other, you can assume that many if not most drivers did not see you at a long distance because the car in front of them obscured their vision and they would not see you until they were only seconds away.

If my memory is correct, this was at the end of climbing a long steep hill, steep enough that there were two lanes up the hill but only one lane going the other direction, the two lanes merge into one a short distance ahead.

The gravel was loose enough that I had to walk some of the hill, if the paved shoulder was wider I could have ridden it but I did not trust riding that close to the traffic on a shoulder that narrow on that busy of a road. This was Trans Canada highway.
I would have to say T that to me, that shoulder is not bad. I guess I have ridden on much worse and my standards have gone down.
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Old 04-15-21, 02:51 PM
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this section was an unpleasant hour or whatever it was, although to be fair, drivers were pretty darn respectful and careful, so no hair raising moments.
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Old 04-15-21, 06:47 PM
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Where I live there are no shoulders and often a big deep ditch instead. There are very few passing zones as most roads are a series of short punchy hills. The lanes are also very narrow.

I tried a visibility experiment. The only thing that worked fantastic was an orange jumper suit that looks very much like the local prison garb. Riding a fat bike with flags. I could not believe the amount of room they gave met but ultimately decided not to ride dressed like that. .
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Old 04-15-21, 07:28 PM
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By gum Alice, lookee thar, looks like one of em escaped from the penitentiary back on 138 and stoled some sorta scooter.
Give him space Frank, give him space!!
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Old 04-15-21, 09:02 PM
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Originally Posted by Doug64 View Post
I am involved with teaching bike safety in our school district. In our program we teach the kids, 5th graders, to ride on the roads. Our graduation ride culminates with a ride around our small city, including busy traffic, turns at traffic signals and stop signs, and rules of the road; essentially everything you would teach a young motor vehicle driver. I was really sad to see Oregon adopt the "Idaho Stop" for cyclists: slow down at the stop sign, and if it is clear, ride through it. My point is that we advocate using the roads, but not as aggressively as the Cycling Savvey folks.

This was part of our route through Iowa while riding Highway 20 across the U.S. As folks said, situational awareness is important. Often trucks would come up behind us and we could see things getting tight. We just pulled off and made friends with a couple of truckers. We could also see approaching trucks getting set up to do a pass, and would also pull over onto the shoulder. The situation required a lot of vigilance, but we did not think it was unsafe or dangerous.
glad to hear you are helping with bike safety. I am trying to get it started in the town I moved to a few years ago. We are years behind but making some advocacy progress.
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Old 04-15-21, 10:24 PM
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P.S. When riding with a partner in a situation like the one shown in the picture above, ride close together, about 6' apart, to allow motor vehicles to pass you with the least amount of exposure. If riders are spaced far apart, It requires the passing vehicle to take more time in the other lane, or having to make 2 passes instead of one. Don't ride too close because the rear rider could hit the wheel of the rider in front, which almost always results in the rear rider going down. That is not a good situation.
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Old 04-15-21, 10:55 PM
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Would you ride this road?

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Old 04-15-21, 11:10 PM
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I have ridden roads similar to the road in the video. However, I would not ride it with that group! By the time traffic gets around the 10th cyclist you are going to have some ticked off drivers. I would not choose a road with no paved shoulder and a lot of traffic if their were better options available.

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Old 04-16-21, 04:10 AM
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Originally Posted by Indigo82 View Post
A couple of days ago a car driving in opposite direction to me was overtaking another vehicle over a solid white line. It passed just a meter away from me going towards me at full speed. This made me think if I want to stay on the asphalt roads or do more bikepacking when possible for my own safety.

What are your tips on how to be safer on motor vehicles roads while touring? Thank you.

I am always wondering when it see pictures of people touring on 8m wide ""highways"" roads! or YouTube is full of videos where people tour with avalanches of cars and trucks! little mirrors on helmets or handle bars make them feel save?
and even if these roads had no traffic, what makes them interesting? nothing. leave the tarmac roads and enjoy nature without motorised metal boxes.

ah! P.S. somebody postet already a video, did not see that.
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Old 04-16-21, 04:50 AM
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I think it's fair to say 10 wheels and str that none of us would prefer roads like that, but on a long trip sometimes we end up hitting a section like this and you just have to get through it---. It's not ideal, not nice, not chosen on purpose.
What can at least help is being experienced amongst traffic, having good bicycle handling skills ie holding a line while looking in mirror and being calm, and having the judgement and timing to know when it's safer to take 10 seconds and pull over.

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Old 04-16-21, 05:04 AM
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Originally Posted by Doug64 View Post
P.S. When riding with a partner in a situation like the one shown in the picture above, ride close together, about 6' apart, to allow motor vehicles to pass you with the least amount of exposure. ....
I fully agree with the concept, but I think 10 to 12 feet is much better. Too close and you can't see small debris in the road (broken glass, wire bits, other bits of metal that fell off cars, etc.) until you hit it. A few more feet gives you time to try to steer around it.
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