Ask my wife. She’ll tell you. The thing that makes her the most nervous with my training is my outdoor ride. Why? Traffic. Every cyclist has experienced it at some point in their training. Getting buzzed by a car, the dreaded right hook, or the impatient pass in the left lane that almost causes a crash.
It has happened to me more times that I can count. The most scary near-miss I’ve experienced came just a few weeks ago. I was on a two lane road and saw a car turning right into my path. He stopped at the stop sign but I was afraid he’d pull out in front of me. Out of nowhere I hear tires squealing and look in time to see a car turn left across my path. I braked and swerved and managed to stay upright.
I rolled along trying to regain my composure when a car stopped next to me. It was the man who had been stopped to turn right. He said to me “that idiot almost killed you! And he almost hit me too!” He was right, but thankfully God kept me safe and I was able to finish the ride without an issue.
That experience got me thinking about this post, and here are 4 ways to stay safe on the roads.
1. Be visible. The best thing you can do as a cyclist is be seen. Don’t wear all black. Hide in cars blind spots. I know most of us don’t do these things, but I feel like I should still say it. I always try to wear a bright color (usually red) and I always ride with a rear light (blinking). I also will get out of aero at an intersection if there are cars around, even if I don’t have a stop sign/ red light just to make sure I’m seen.
2. Be obedient. I know, I know. It sounds like I’m siding with the pregidous car drivers here, but I still need to say it for the 1% of you who don’t do this. It is absolutely important to follow all the rules of the road. A bike is considered a vehicle so a cyclist needs to act like a car driver. Doing a “rolling stop” at a stop sign is just as wrong on a bike as in a car. Turn signals are required by law. Cyclists use their hand signals in stead. Follow the rules and stay safe! (Note: I’m not a lawyer or a police officer or even a Driver’s Ed. instructor so this is not legal advice… if you don’t know what the rules are in your area, look them up!)
3. Be followed. I’m not talking about a support car, but live tracking. Many of the newer GPS devices out there have an ability to send a link for live tracking to someone. I suggest you use it. If you have an older device, I recommend the Road ID App. I still use this even though my Garmin 920xt has live tracking capabilities. I just like how Road ID works better. At the very least, tell someone where you are going and how long you plan to be out.
4. Be your own advocate. This is something I heard a race director say at a pre-race meeting. That particular race always seems to have a yard sale somewhere along the bike course every year. The idea is that you are responsible to stay alert and avoid getting into a crash. It doesn’t matter who’s fault it is. If you get hit, it could end your season at best or your life at worst. Priority number one should be to get back home in one piece.
5. Stay Inside. I know, this is not really a way to stay safe outside. But I also said there were 4 ways… and this is number 5! Anyway, when it comes down to it, you may just want to get a trainer and do some indoor training. I have switched over to doing the majority of my riding inside with only my long weekend rides outside. It’s almost impossible to get hit by a car when you are riding inside! (I say “almost” only because there could be that one case where a car crashed through the side of a house and hit a guy riding his bike on a trainer… but I doubt it).
As you read this you may think I’m taking the side of the drivers… I’m not, I promise you! But I do know there is very little we can do about them. What we can change is the way we ride and how we stay safe. Like I said, the number one priority is to get back home safely!
What other ways do you stay safe? Did I miss anything? Let me know in the comments below or on Twitter!