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Western Wheelers Bicycle Club

  • Safety Tips Originally Published in the Flat Tyre

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    • Fri, September 01, 2023 9:00 AM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

      Work to eat. Eat to live.  
      Live to bike. Bike to work.  

      ~ Unknown  

      A while back a club member crashed while crossing train tracks at too narrow an angle. The tracks caught their wheel and they went down hard, sustaining serious injuries. This danger is dramatically demonstrated in this terrifying video showing over 50 cyclists crashing while crossing railroad tracks. Several of the cyclists look to be quite seriously hurt: https://youtu.be/YfeQvbIFBks.

      Crossing a railroad track at a shallow angle runs the risk of your wheel catching on the metal rail or the gaps next to it. The danger is much greater when the tracks are wet or when breaking during the crossing. The simple key conclusion from the study associated with the video is that the crash rate is dramatically reduced when the crossing angle is greater than 30º and is eliminated at greater than 60º.

      I know of a couple of risky skewed track crossings in our riding area. One is north bound on Winchester Blvd near 85 in Los Gatos; the other is where tracks cross Cox Ave. The key is to turn away from the tracks in advance, then veer back toward the tracks to cross them at a greater angle. Of course, if either turn puts you into the lane of traffic, you’ll need to make sure it is safe to do so.

      If you know of other dangerous train track crossings, please comment on this safety tip on the web site.

    • Tue, August 01, 2023 9:00 AM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

      Riding bicycles will not only benefit the  
      individual doing it, but the world at large.  
      ~ Udo E. Simonis  

      Okay, I admit it; I don’t always come to a complete stop at stop signs. But there’s a dangerous behavior at stop signs I’ve observed on some group rides. A group of riders stop at a stop sign, perhaps to let another driver through, to let pedestrians cross, or for some other reason when another rider comes from behind, passes the stopped riders, and goes through the intersection without stopping. This behavior endangers him or herself, breeds ill will toward cyclists, and aggravates the stopped riders. When you see cyclists stopped at an intersection, you should always assume there is a reason and come to a full stop. 

      There’s a second dangerous behavior I’ve seen. Wheelers are typically quite good at calling “Car Back” when there is a car trying to pass a group of riders. But all too often, two or three people riding abreast fail to pull over into a single file formation to let the car pass. While there are times when taking over a lane is advisable, the default behavior should be to pause your conversation, pull to the right (of course, after checking there is room), and let the car pass.

      These behaviors may both come from the same root cause. Don’t let riding in a large group lull you into feeling cyclists own the road and can violate traffic rules or safe cycling practices. “Share the Road” works both ways, so even in a large group follow the same safe riding behavior as you would when riding by yourself or with one other person.

    • Sat, July 01, 2023 9:00 AM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

      It doesn’t matter whether it’s raining or the sun is shining  
      or whatever: as long as I’m riding a bike,  
      I know I’m the luckiest guy in the world.  
      ~ Mark Cavendish, British pro racer  

      As we move into the summer touring season with members visiting beautiful places to ride, it is more important than ever to be very conspicuous by wearing bright colors and using lights. Many drivers are often not looking for cyclists and are more interested in the scenery than watching the road. Wearing bright clothing increases your visibility so drivers can’t help but notice you from a distance or as soon as they round a curve. Bright colors or lights are especially effective on your ankles or feet as the up and down motion attracts further attention. Blinking lights, both rear and front, are sure ways to be very noticeable to drivers. Using a mirror lets you be much more aware of cars and bicycles approaching from the rear. The mirror can be attached to your helmet, to your sunglasses, or to your bike.

    • Thu, June 01, 2023 9:00 AM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

      Life is like a 10-speed bicycle.  
      Most of us have gears we never use.  
      ~ Charles M. Schultz   

      This month’s safety tip expands upon last month’s tip to yield the right of way to motor vehicles when appropriate. Michael Khaw suggested also pointing out the need to yield to pedestrians. Pedestrians have the right of way over vehicles, INCLUDING BIKES, especially when the pedestrian is in a crosswalk. Too often cyclists see the relatively slow moving pedestrians and blow past them, antagonizing them and reinforcing the prejudices against cyclists. When you come to a crosswalk that a pedestrian has already started to cross or is about to cross, do as a car should do and stop to let them cross. 

    • Mon, May 01, 2023 9:00 AM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

      Riding a bicycle is the closest you can get to flying.  
      ~ Robin Williams  

      I am writing this column to describe a dangerous behavior I have observed in other riders and have sometimes fallen into myself.

      While there are problem drivers, overall we are blessed with many courteous drivers. Often at intersections, drivers will wave cyclists through, even if the driver got there first or has the right of way. Unfortunately, this can lead to cyclists feeling privileged, assuming all motor vehicles will stop to let them through. One can get so used to drivers waving cyclists through, that when they come to a 4-way stop sign intersection that already has a car at one of the perpendicular streets, they’ll assume the car will wait for them to proceed. This is wrong and can lead to disastrous consequences.

      When you come to a 4-way stop that already has a vehicle waiting or a vehicle approaching the intersection before you, give them the opportunity to go first. If approaching at the same time, remember from your driver’s training that the vehicle on the right has the right of way. If the driver stops and waves you through, by all means go ahead, while giving a friendly wave or saying thank you to the driver. But always give the vehicle that has the right of way the opportunity to take advantage of it. Don’t assume that just because you can see that a driver notices you, you then have the right of way.

    • Sat, April 01, 2023 9:00 AM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

      Riding bicycles will not only  
      benefit the individual doing it,  
      but the world at large.   
      ~ Udo E. Simonis  

      With all of the recent stormy weather, there are a lot of sticks and other debris on the sides of roads putting cyclists at risk. On a club ride a while back, there was a rock in the bike lane on Foothill Expressway. Most people went around it, but a cyclist near the back of the group hit it directly, getting quite a jolt. Luckily, he managed to avoid a crash, but did get a pinch flat. It is important to point out these obstacles to the cyclists behind you.

      Communication is very important when bicycling in a group. When you see a hazard ahead or a car coming up behind (or in front on a narrow road), please communicate this to your riding partners. Usually a verbal signal is best such as "car up" or "rock" or "gravel." At other times pointing out a hazard with a hand signal is best (remember that when biking we always point at the hazard). The important thing is to COMMUNICATE!

    • Wed, March 01, 2023 9:00 AM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

      Like dogs, bicycles are social catalysts  
      that attract a superior category of people.  
      ~ Chip Brown, writer   

      We are transitioning into the spring season that is optimal for long rides. Our club’s great LTD rides are taking us further afield to ride scenic routes in remote areas. Don’t let bike mechanical problems leave you stranded or unable to enjoy a great day of riding. Study your bike to determine if it is in good condition and ready to ride. If you have been putting off that tune-up or trying to stretch that worn tire just a few more miles, now is a good time to get these maintenance items done. How many miles are on those tires? When was the last time you had your shifting cables changed or checked your chain for stretch? Are your brake pads worn down? Have you cleaned off the grit on your bike acquired while riding on wet roads?

      Most rides will not stop while you fix a flat nor is the ride leader expected to change your tire for you. Many of our organized rides are in remote areas without cellular reception where a mechanical issue may be quite problematic, so be prepared and get your bike in top shape!

    • Wed, February 01, 2023 9:00 AM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

      It is the unknown around the corner  
      that turns my wheels.  
      ~ Heinz Stücke  
      Long-distance touring cyclist  

      The recent deluge of storms has brought a significant increase in the amount of dangerous debris out on the roads. There’s more than the usual amount of glass, nails, screws, and fine wires from steel belted tires. I’ve personally experienced two flat tires during the first two rides of the year, one of which was a front tire blow-out. It’s a good time to aggressively replace tires that have a large number of miles on them, are showing wear, or are just plain old. So, check your tires and the records on the life of your tires (if you maintain that data) and replace tires that are nearing the end of their usable lifetime.

    • Sun, January 01, 2023 9:00 AM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

      The bicycle is the noblest invention of mankind   
      ~ William Saroyan   

      When riding in groups, it is critically important to communicate intended actions that may impact cyclists riding behind you. Many club members have been in crashes caused by cyclists slowing down or making unexpected turns, forcing a cyclist behind them to either crash into them or crash while trying to avoid them. It is important to call out “Stopping” or “Slowing” when taking one of these actions and to call out or signal when turning. Sometimes a cyclist must slow or stop quickly due to some issue ahead and it can be hard to think to call out, but it is something we all need to learn to do. At other times, a cyclist pulls over to take a picture or to make an adjustment on their bicycle not realizing their action may impact the rider behind them. The key is to always communicate your intended actions to the cyclists around you.

    • Thu, December 01, 2022 9:00 AM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

      Whoever invented the bicycle   
      deserves the thanks of humanity.   
      ~ Lord Charles Beresford   

      This is my annual safety tip warning of the dangers during this time of year due to wet conditions or debris on the road.

      While we tend not to ride on days when it is raining, we often ride shortly afterwards. During this season, there are frequent areas with wet leaves on the ground that are SLIPPERY. In 2018, a club member broke her hip after taking a fall caused by sliding out while running over a clump of wet leaves.

      Stormy conditions also cause sticks and other debris to fall on the road, much of it ending up in the bike lanes. In the past few years, we’ve had incidents where we sadly lost two club members after fatal encounters with an errant stick in the bike lane going into their front wheel.

      After a rainy or windy day or while riding through damp conditions, be especially careful around wet leaves and keep a sharp eye out for dangerous sticks or other debris on the road.

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