Friday, September 02, 2011

Bike To Stay Alive

Bike To Live Tips: Feel free to add comments or other tips in the Guestbook and I'll update the article.
In my first days of cycling the ride leader, known as 'Tom Guru', emphasized safety over and over and over to us 'newbies'. His mantra was 'Bike Not To Die'. After writing the following a friend suggested a better way to say this is: 'Bike To Stay Alive.' I can live with that.
These are my personal thoughts and as it goes without saying your opinion may differ.

If you have a suggestion feel free to email me at Jkeenan0407 AT yahoo DOT com or write it in the JOURNAL area for this article.

MIRRORS: Figured I'd pick this as a first thought because there are so many cyclists who don't wear a mirror and I often wonder "why not?" I think it's because of the "geek" factor and it just doesn't look cool. So about mirrors:

You can see a car long before you can hear one
By watching the front tires of the car behind you sure can tell if that sucker is starting to move over to pass ya
You wouldn't drive a car without mirrors, so why bike without 'em? (Rhetorical question!!)
Helmet or eyeglass mounted. Yup a personal preference but I've found this to be an incredible tool as by swiveling my head it's easy to scan behind me.
Use it for no other reason that it does increase your cycling safety
RIDE WITH THE TRAFFIC Simply it's the law. The other reason is that most car drivers DON'T expect you to be "there". What do I mean by "there"? One simple example is a driver pulling out of a driveway and turning right. RARELY will that driver look to the right because the driver is concerned about traffic in the normal flow, so as the driver pulls out I'll betcha dollars to donuts that you too keep looking left to make sure some speeder isn't gonna come flying down the road and "T bone ya. That means the driver isn't looking to the right, which is where a cyclist riding "facing" traffic will be. How do I know? Twice I've yelled just as a cyclist facing traffic was about to be hit.

TAKE THE ROAD (Sometimes): If you right far to the right a driver thinks "Oh, the cyclist is way over there, I've got plenty of room in my lane." This pertains to roads with no bike lanes or shoulders.

Two lane roads: IF and this is a big "IF" there is no oncoming traffic, ride about 1/3 into the lane and stay there. Now with a mirror you can monitor a car from behind. Don't use a mirror? Now it' up to you. Why 1/3 into the lane? Because if you hug the white line it's what I said above: The car stays in your lane. If you are riding about a 1/3 into the lane, that car will now move WAY over into the other lane to pass you. I've tried this numerous times as a test and it happens as me said.
Four lane roads: If with another rider or two definitely take the right lane.
Heavy traffic? I'd find a different route.
GIVE UP THE ROAD (Sometimes): Please don't preach "I have a right to ride on the road." As Tom Guru told me: "Yes, but do you want to be dead to right?" Why take a chance when there might be a much safer alternative. Examples:

Narrow two lane road with no shoulder or bike lane. BIG ol honk'n semi coming from behind me. Oh, how did I know there was a big ol honkn semi? I use a mirror (shameless plug for mirrors). Coming towards me are two dump trucks and a line of angry motorists behind the two dump trucks. So, do I just continue to ride because I have as much right as those two big freak'n dump trucks and that big ol honk'n semi behind me. Yes, but I'm going to pull over, move my bike about 2 feet off the road, smile and wave that semi on by. I know I'll live to bike another day.
Busy road with bike/pedestrian path on the side and the road has no shoulder or bad drop offs because of a lousy paving job, etc. Example: Old Cutler Road is a major road here in Miami. There is a a nice wide bike lane about 4 feet to the side of the road. My first week end in Miami I see cyclists on Old Cutler Road. So I tried it my first ride. Do you know how close cars come at 45 to 50 mph because the road has a double yellow line and there is often a lot of traffic coming the other way? Right. Beaucoup. So instead of doing 16 to 18 mph on the road, I do 13 to 15 mph on the seldom used bike path. This week end just for the heck of it, I'm going to count how many cars go by in oh about 10 minutes
I want to live to bike another day. I give up the road sometimes even if I have the right.

STOP at STOP SIGNS (okay..mostly!!): This is mostly for four way stop sign intersections. Don't assume because you're there first that the car approaching is going to stop. NOT always!. Try to make eye contact so the driver knows you're going to move. Yah, most of us do rolling stops, me included. But when it comes to a four way stop and there's a car looking like it might be there after me, I stop, wave the car on. Why? Cause then I know THAT car can not hit me.

DON'T ASSUME The phrase has spoketh many times:ASSUME and it makes an ASH out of U and ME!! So......

Don't assume that approaching car won't make a left turn in front of you because there is no turn signal.
Don't assume that car making the left turn WITH the signal on actually sees you.
Don't assume those folks at the cross walk will obey the light and won't step in front of you
Don't assume as you approach an intersection that the jerk in a hurry to make a left hand turn won't cut the corner over your path
Don't assume because you've got a green light that the car approaching from your right will stop. '
Don't assume that cyclist you're passing knows you are there. An "on yer left" can prevent YOU going down. Your front wheel gets touched and skip to the TURTLE lesson.
Don't assume anything. At all times practice VIGILANCE.
MENTALLY PRACTICE THE TURTLE There is a known fact with avid cyclists: It isn't if you will fall down, it's when will you fall down." Or as someone said: "Bikes are not built to stand up by themselves." At some point in your cycling life you just might "go down".

So mentally practice "What if".

What if I hit a rock?
What if I have a blow out?
What if my front brake locks up?
What if I don't see that gaping pothole?
The TURTLE can help you, so think about doing it the moment you start to fall. So many broken hands, wrists, arms, collar bones are because the first instinct is to put out a hand to stop/cushion/ward off the fall. Not Good. Bad. Bad. Bad.

Instead: TURTLE immediately when you start to go down.

What's TURTLE? Glad you asked

Ball up your fists.
Cross right balled fist to left shoulder.
Cross left balled fist to right shoulder.
Tuck chin deep into chest.
Hold that pose
What this does is to roll your shoulders forward. Go ahead. Try it. The chin tuck protects your face. Hey, that's a nice face. No need to leave it on the asphalt. The rolling of your shoulders exposes the fatty area to the fall and could cushion the impact possibly preventing breakage.

I can attest to the TURTLE saving my face and head. If you're curious email and I'll be glad to give you a second by second hand account. I believe the TURTLE twice saved me serious injury.

STAY AWAY FROM THE LIGHT Nope not the light for out of body experiences, although riding into this light could cause that.

Stay out of riding into a low rising/setting sun. When you're in a car and you're driving into one of those low sunrises or sunsets, got the visor down, your hand shielding your eyes, and still it's dang hard to see. That is the light I mean.

In Florida, I've read of at least 3 maybe 4 deaths of cyclists commuting to work and you know what the driver is going to say: "I just didn't see the cyclist. The sun glare was so strong."

What to do? I'd find a different route or I'd be on the sidewalk cycling wherever I have to go at a pace that allows me to react to driveways, turning cars, etc. Yah, I know: The sidewalk? Given that or riding directly into sun glare, I'll take the sidewalk and take it easy.

The light could lead to permanent darkness. That is definitely not good.

So those are some ways I BIKE TO STAY ALIVE. Your thoughts or suggestions in the Journal most welcome.


Sagebum said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Sagebum said...

Excellent as always. You have at least partially address it but under the "Don't Assume" I would add that there is no such thing as making "eye contact" Even without out sunglasses it doesn't exist. On several occasions when I tought a driver was looking at me, they proved otherwise. A wave from the driver is better evidence that they acknowledge your presence.