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  • Bike Safety Tips

    Originally Published in the Flat Tyre

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    • Sat, May 01, 2021 9:00 AM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

      Ride as much or as little, or as long     
      or as short as you feel. But ride.    

      ~ Eddy Merckx    

      In September 2019 Tom Ockenden was riding with other Western Wheelers, heading north towards the Don Burnett Bridge over 280 from Mary Avenue. Tom got tangled in the narrow gap between the right hand white pole (bollard) and the fence on the right side of the bridge. His helmet hit one of the upright fence supports and twisted his head resulting in the fracture of his second cervical vertebrae in his neck. Tom had to wear a neck brace for three months and was unable to ride for an extended period of time.

      Not content to attribute this crash to misfortune, Pete Letchworth examined whether dangerous conditions on the entrance to the bridge contributed to the crash. His first thought was that the white poles blended into the bridge backdrop, so were not sufficiently visible, a simple problem that could have been addressed with a splash of orange paint. But working with Alan Wachtel together they found a section in the CalTrans Highway Design Manual with 11 guidelines governing the use of bollards in such a situation. The bollards on the Don Burnett bridge violated 6 of these guidelines! Chief among them, bollards should be:

          •    Yielding to minimize injury to bicyclists and pedestrians who may strike them.
          •    Reflectorized for nighttime visibility and painted ... in a bright color to enhance daytime visibility.
          •    Spaced to leave a minimum of 5 feet of clearance between obstacles ...
          •    Positioned so an even number of bicycle travel lanes are created [odd number of bollards] ...


      The Don Burnett bridge had two white rigid poles at each end of the bridge, creating three lanes, each less than five feet across!

      Pete wrote letters to various Cupertino officials. He followed up with more letters when there was a lack of action related to his earlier correspondence. The issue was belatedly taken up by the Cupertino Bicycle Pedestrian Commission in mid 2020 which approved changing the configuration to a single bollard at the centerline on both sides of the bridge. The work was supposed to be completed by the end of 2020 but was finally completed in February of this year.

      Pete next to the highly visible, single bollard
      on the Don Burnett Bridge entrance

      We can all follow Pete’s lead. If you see a situation that is dangerous for cyclists such as a bridge or road design or any kind of road hazard, report it to the appropriate agency. SVBC maintains a web page with contact info for different regions and agencies that can be used to report the hazard. Persevere to get your issue resolved. The cycling community will benefit from your efforts.

      Thankfully, Tom fully recovered from his crash and his cheerful presence is again enjoyed by his fellow cyclists on club rides.

    • Thu, April 01, 2021 9:00 AM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

      I don’t ride a bike to add days to my life.    
      I ride a bike to add life to my days.    
      ~ Unknown    


      As we transition from the wintry wet days into the spring season optimal for long rides, it is time to make sure your bicycle is in good shape. 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 where a mechanical issue may be much more problematic, so be prepared and get your bike in top shape!

    • Mon, March 01, 2021 9:00 AM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

      By Mindy Steiner

      I thought of that while riding my bicycle    
      ~ Albert Einstein    

      (on the Theory of Relativity)    

      In this month’s Safety Tip, I’m piggybacking on the September 2020 tip about the importance of always paying attention while riding.  Even when the scenery is lovely, riding a bicycle safely requires constant attention to the road and all of the surroundings.

      While it’s important to keep focused all during a ride, it is especially important to beware of what I’m calling the “Stupid Hour”  This is the last part of your ride when you are tired and you may be thinking about the plans you have after the ride or later in the day.  Don’t let your mind wander and don’t take your focus off the road.   Alertness and attentiveness naturally decrease as you get tired so it is important to concentrate on staying focused on the road all the way to the end of your ride.  Don’t let the stupid hour ruin your day!

    • Mon, February 01, 2021 9:00 AM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

      One of the most important days of my life    
      was when I learned to ride a bicycle.    
      ~ Michael Palin
, Monty Python Member    

      Robert Neff took exception to last month’s Safety Tip about making eye contact, saying “If a driver looks in your direction, there is no guarantee that you have been seen. Humans tend to only see what they are looking for (not bicyclists), but they also see things that are unusual, especially bright colors and motion.” While I stand by my column, Robert makes an excellent point on the value of drawing driver’s attention. He has some great advice, so let me just quote him.

      “Positioning: If I am riding in traffic with no shoulder or bike lane, I ride in the middle of the lane. When there is a parked car blocking the bike lane, I move to the middle of the open lane at least 50 yards ahead of the blocker, when it is safe. Bright clothing: I am glad that our unofficial club uniform is high-visibility cycling jackets! Throw out your black jerseys and windbreakers. Motion: Wear bright socks, or bright reflective bands on your ankles, put reflective tape on your shoes, and reflective tape on your crank arms, because if something bright is moving up and down, humans are tuned to notice it. Finally, use lights, nighttime and daytime. Many of us now have blinkies on our bikes going day and night. The blinking gets more attention.

      “In the winter I go much further. You can get Monkeylectric wheel lights, wear a reflective safety vest, mount battery powered holiday lights to your bike with zip ties, or even wear them. I find that everyone (drivers, pedestrians, other cyclists) likes the Christmas lights. The first time I went to the holiday party I thought the ride was going to be about OUR lit up bicycles. The advantage of lights instead of reflectors is that you do not need to be illuminated by someone else's headlights to be visible.

      “Finally, I like having a white safety light (not TOO bright) on my helmet, so I can aim it at automobiles that might cross my path. I use that starting at dusk. It is effective at changing the behaviour of motorists who might not see me otherwise and it is also handy for seeing pedestrians on dark paths.

      “A last comment - watch the calendar. The day after the end of Daylight Savings Time, it is dark one hour earlier, and you may discover that motorists who saw you at 5:30 the week before won't see you at all. Shine a light on them! Or ring a bell, or just yell. My default exclamation is a strong Yo (one benefit of an East Coast education).

      “Let's be safe on our wonderful roads.”

      Thanks, Robert, for your good advice and for writing my safety tip this month.

    • Fri, January 01, 2021 9:00 AM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

      No hour of life is lost that is spent in the saddle.
      ~ Winston Churchill

      My motivation for this month’s safety tip comes from the 2019 New Year’s Day bicycling crash experienced by San Jose Mayor Sam Liccardo. You can read more about it here.

      Sam was cycling toward an intersection with no stop sign in his direction. An SUV driving on the cross street with a stop sign, came to a stop, then proceeded through the intersection right in front of Sam, presumably not seeing him. Sam smashed into the SUV. Sam was completely in the right, but ended up with fractures to two of his vertebrae and his sternum, major scrapes on his body, bruises on his face and a swollen lip. The SUV had a smashed rear window (from Sam’s head). The SUV driver was issued a citation for failure to yield.

      The booklet, California Bicycling Street Smarts, which is sent to new members has a section addressing this kind of situation.

      MAKING EYE CONTACT

      How do you test that a driver has seen you? Here's an example. Suppose that you are on a main street, riding toward an intersection. A car is approaching from the right in the cross street, where there's a stop sign. How do you handle this situation?

      As you approach the intersection, look into the car window and make eye contact with the driver to ascertain that the driver has seen you. Watch for the car to slow down more than it would if you weren't there.

      If you look into the driver's window and the driver isn't looking at you, then be very cautious. ... Slow down, and call out to get the driver's attention [or ring your bell].

      I heartily recommend reading Street Smarts as it provides useful information for cyclists at all skill levels. It will make you a safer rider with information such as where on the road to ride (not always on the far right), how to handle standard and non-standard intersections, riding in groups, and other useful topics. The generic (not California specific) version is available online. If you want a physical copy please contact Bill Sherwin with your mailing address.
    • Tue, December 01, 2020 9:00 AM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

      You never have the wind with you — either
      it is against you or you’re having a good day.

      ~ Daniel Behrman

      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 frequently 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 a lot of sticks and other debris to fall on the road, much of it ending up in the bike lanes. 2018 saw the tragic passing of member Troy Folkner after a crash caused by an errant stick in the bike lane going into his front wheel. Recently, a similar event caused a horrendous crash to long time cyclist and previous WW President Tim Ellis who faces a long recovery.

      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.

    • Sun, November 01, 2020 9:00 AM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

      Nothing compares to the simple pleasure     
      of a bike ride     
      ~ John F. Kennedy     

      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.

    • Thu, October 01, 2020 9:00 AM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

      Life is like riding a bicycle - in order to          
      keep your balance, you must keep moving
                
      ~ Albert Einstein
                

      This month’s Safety Tip comes from the article Why is Riding With A Cyclist Mentality Dangerous? by Coach Robert Wilhite in Road Bike Rider (recommended by Dave Fitch). Robert points out that the people in the back of a pack of riders have the best vantage point for assessing cars coming up from behind and have the best position to signal to those drivers the intent of the group of cyclists. Yet, riders in the back of a pack tend to have a “follow the leader” mentality without assuming responsibility to assess the safety of a turn or signaling to drivers behind the group.

      A specific example is when a pack of riders approaches a left-hand turn. It is typically the riders in the front that signal to the left and start shifting over lanes. Riders behind them, especially the ones towards the back of the group, may check that it's clear (though not always) but often don’t signal to drivers that the group is moving to the left. It is the responsibility of every rider in the group, no matter how far forward or back, to assess the safety of a lane change and to signal their intent. In particular, the riders toward the back of the pack have the greatest responsibility to signal to oncoming drivers what the pack is doing.

      Don’t blindly follow the leader. Always take individual responsibility to check that things are clear when going through an intersection or changing lanes and always signal your intent, even if you are at or towards the back of a group of riders.

    • Tue, September 01, 2020 9:00 AM | Anonymous member (Administrator)
      Cycle tracks will abound in Utopia       

      ~ H.G. Wells       

      Riding a bicycle on roads with cars, trucks, potholes, bumps, animals, and other bikers requires constant attention. One of the most critical lessons for new cyclists is that they must learn to pay attention at all times. The one time that you space out for a few minutes is often when the unexpected occurs. This doesn't mean you can't relax - that is why we are out cycling ! But it’s very important that even when the scenery is incredible, the sunshine soothing, and the conversation invigorating, you must pay attention to the road and the surroundings.


    • Sat, August 01, 2020 9:00 AM | Anonymous member (Administrator)
      One side effect of the COVID-19 outbreak is the large number of new people taking up bicycling, either for transportation or recreation. These new riders are more likely to make erratic moves on the road. It is more important than ever to be aware of the other cyclists on the road as you ride. As the operator of a bicycle, you are responsible for being in control and able to stop when a rider slows or stops in front of you. Keep a safe distance behind and pay attention.

      At the same time, be aware of riders following behind you. Warn other riders when slowing, and avoid sudden stops when possible. When your phone rings or there’s a beautiful picture to be taken, call out that you are stopping, make sure it is safe to do so, and then pull over to the far right of the road as you stop.

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