Day 71: Dangers of the Bicycle

My roommate walked in the door on Sunday evening dripping with blood. That’s right, high drama for our otherwise placid household.

She was riding her bike straight along a road (as one is apt to do) when someone driving the opposite direction decided to turn left and smoked the back of her bicycle, sending her flying onto the road. Luckily she wasn’t too seriously hurt, but she is pretty scraped up and shaken up and isn’t allowed in the pool (she’s a competitive swimmer) until she heals.

Furthermore, she now has a bunch of band-aids in her bin and is about to have a few broken bike parts join them. This setback might well knock her out of her current first place clean bin position. (and my apologies to Rhyannon because the image doesn’t look a thing like you, but you must appreciate the graphic depiction of blood)

Seriously though. That was scary.

So, keep your eyes peeled when you’re driving out there, dammit! And if you actually do hit someone, have the decency to call an ambulance or drive them home or something – don’t leave them to haul their bike home on public transit! Geez.

2 Comments

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2 responses to “Day 71: Dangers of the Bicycle

  1. rhy

    I figured after taking a big hit, I’d post some safe cycling tips for folks out there because despite the accident cycling is still an amazing way to get around without hurting the environment, and generally when not being hit by cars is good for your health. . . not on the list below is what to do if you are hit (and what i didn’t do) 1. get the license plate number of the car that hit you 2. call the police 3. get the contact info of all witnesses. . . and now some other safe cycling tips

    Wear a helmet and reflective gear

    Know the rules of the road and stick to them – but don’t rely on others to do the same. It’s no good saying “I had the right of way” when they are scraping you off the road and putting you in an ambulance. What I mean here is: don’t you be the one who causes an accident because you break the rules.

    Concentrate. It’s easy to drop your head when you are tired or you are having gear trouble. Don’t. You have to know what is going on around you. You can develop the concentration habit by keeping up a commentary in your head of what you see and your responses (left turn coming up… green Audi turning in front of me… no… he is giving way… lights are red… there’s a queue… I’m going up the left hand side… I’m watching for car doors… etc etc).

    Be a mind reader. You can’t see into the future, but you can develop good instincts. For example: big traffic jam? Then motorists will be impatient and erratic. They might U-turn or duck into a side road without signalling. If a bus stops, watch out for pedestrians stepping out from behind the bus and watch the other side of the road for peds running to catch it. Be aware of the time of day, too: if you pass a school, for example, is it “home time?”

    Look behind you. Look behind whenever you turn or change lanes and whenever you approach a junction or piece of traffic furniture, whether you intend to turn or not. This will literally save your life.

    Signal your intentions clearly. People give you more space if they know where you are going. If you can, identify the danger man or woman (the motorist who is on your shoulder, the pedestrian who is day dreaming) and make eye contact. Be ready to shout too (go for assertive, not rude), to make your intentions clear.

    Use bus lanes – but keep looking behind, however, for motorists who use bus lanes illegally. These guys will squeeze past you. It’s safest just to get to the kerb and let them go past. Bus drivers are generally patient because they know a stop is coming up anyway, but occasionally a bus driver will be an idiot. Avoid the centre of bus lanes, that’s where buses drop diesel fuel and it’s like riding on ice, especially in the wet.

    Use cycle lanes – but remember you are not obliged to use them. Many are designed more for the convenience of the motorist than the safety of the cyclist. If the cycle lane is tricky and dangerous, use the regular road instead, then rejoin the cycle lane when it is safe to do so.

    Speed is your friend. Counter intuitive, I know, but if you ride briskly, it is easier to keep your balance and you are less likely to annoy motorists. If you keep up with the traffic, instead of holding it up, motorists generally treat you with more respect and give you more room to manoeuvre.

    If necessary, drop your bike. Mike knew he wasn’t going to stop in time, so he put the bike on it’s side and slid to a stop. If you have the choice between laying the bike down and getting some gravel rash or going head first into a solid object, go with the gravel rash every time. Cuts and scrapes heal far faster than broken bones and internal injuries.
    ( these last two points are seriously what saved me, i noticed the guy wasn’t slowing down so i speed up to pass his car a bit so he’d hit miss me (or hit my back end) and aimed to skid into the grass on the curb leaving me road rashed and bruised but not broken or concussed!

    All of that deals with the business of staying safe in the face of everyday hazards. There is one final thing I want to share:

    Never, ever get into a fight with a “bike-hater.” This is the motorists who is angry with you, or who is angry with his spouse/boss/kids/world and you are the nearest target. The warning signs are erratic or aggressive driving, rude hand gestures, verbal abuse. This is the person who deliberately blocks bicycle lanes, or who passes you with only a hair’s breadth between his wing mirror and your handlebars, then shouts abuse if you complain. Very rarely, it can escalate to objects being thrown at you, car doors being opened in your path, sometimes even to full on ramming. Don’t let it get that far.

    The only way to tackle a bike-hater is not to tackle him at all. Simply get off the road to a place of safety as quickly as you can. If you feel threatened, get help. If that means walking up to the nearest building and ringing the bell, or walking into a shop to ask for help, do it. As soon as it is safe to do so, ring the police with your location and the car’s number plate.

    You will want to fight back, your pride will be hurt, but never let that tempt you into escalating a confrontation. Let’s be clear about this: you might be in the right, but your antagonist has over a ton of metal at his disposal. When a cyclist mixes it up with a motorist, the cyclist will always lose. Just let the motorist go.

    Like I said at the beginning, please don’t let any of this put you off. These tips are not to frighten you, but to help you have a safe and enjoyable time on your bike. Keep riding.

  2. Ouch, best wishes to you, Rhy for a speedy recovery and thanks for the tips – I think a lot of people will find those helpful.

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