Here we are with the second half of our look at triathlon bike safety. In Part One I looked at the macro-level elements of riding safely; in this post we’ll look at more specific steps you can take to improve your chances of riding unscathed. While some of these tips are obvious, I hope you can take away some new things…feel free to add your comments below!
Obey The Traffic Laws
Simple enough, yet so few bicycle riders actually do it. There is no quicker way to lose the respect of other riders and motorists than to blitz through a red light or cut someone off with no forewarning. Being on two wheels instead of four doesn’t automatically exempt you from the rules of the road. The bottom line is this: If you wouldn’t do it in a car, don’t do it on a bike. Period.
Riding with confidence is a huge part of remaining safe on the road. Don’t wobble all over the place, commit to a line and stick with it. Ride tall and visibly in the road; brightly colored outfits are totally fine if they help you control your riding space. Don’t be afraid to express with your hands or body (no, not that universal sign!); show clearly whether or not you are turning by pointing in that direction. Warn cars pulling out of side roads or backing out of driveways with a loud “BIKE!” Remember that at 18+ mph, you really only get one syllable to express yourself clearly, so keep it simple!
Know where you are going and how you want to get there. Hitting an intersection at 20mph at rush hour in traffic is most certainly not the time to reconsider your options. Last minute directional changes are a great way to get into — or cause — an accident. If necessary, stand down on the side of the road and figure out your plan before implementing it.
A large part of being safe is about knowing where you are and what it means to get be there right now. Are you on a busy road at rush hour? A deserted country road? A street with parked cars and high foot traffic? Each of these situations calls for a different response, and as a responsible safe cyclist you need to have the appropriate response on hand for each scenario.
When on a busy road at rush hour…
- Use clear hand signals to express your intent.
- Beware cars going around other cars on the shoulder.
- Beware early morning joggers heading at you.
- Don’t look for signals/blinkers, look at the actual cars themselves.
- Beware cars turning left through stopped traffic (and across your lane).
- Frame the traffic as a driver; what would you do if you were that car up ahead? Plan accordingly…
When in the middle of nowhere…
- Don’t get too complacent; cars drive faster in the middle of nowhere!
- Watch the terrain.
- Know good places to stop / find help should the need arise.
When in urban setting with parked cars…
- Look at the headrest of parked cars to see if someone is in the driver’s seat.
- Look for brake lights.
- Stay out of your aerobars.
- Be extra vigilant at crossroads/intersections.
If you can stay one step ahead of the driver’s around you, you’ll be in a pretty safe place. You can achieve this by knowing the true things to look for, for example when riding next to a car, don’t look for a blinker but at the right front wheel to see if it’s going to turn.
If you see an obstacle up ahead, begin moving as soon as possible to avoid it. Sit up and look around; your body language might not translate to drivers, but they’ll know something is up. Whatever you do, avoid last minute swerving. It’s better to take a hard bump than to get bumped by a car!
You don’t have to check for traffic coming up behind you all the time. When you see an oncoming car you’ll know that any cars approaching behind will have trouble passing. This is when you need to check what’s going on around you and make sure you are in the good.
What other guidelines do you use to stay safe???