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Western Wheelers Bicycle Club

  • Safety Tips Originally Published in the Flat Tyre

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

      Let's be careful out there.
      ~ Sgt. Phil Esterhaus, Hill Street Blues

      I’m concluding my series of Safety tips with the Ride SMART guidance from the Cascade Bicycle Club based in Seattle, Washington. Many of the safety tips I’ve covered in this series are included in these recommendations, bringing them together in one cohesive format.

      Ride SMART


      • Momentary inattention is the number one cause of incidents.
      • Watch for vehicles, bicyclists, pedestrians and hazards (e.g. curbs, potholes, railroad tracks, glass, debris).
      • Do not wear earbuds or use phones while riding.


      • Move off the road or trail when stopped.
      • Leave enough room in front of you to avoid other riders, vehicles and hazards.
      • Ride at least four feet from parked cars, outside the door zone.


      • Wear a properly fitted helmet.
      • Ride in a straight line.
      • Stay right, pass left.
      • See and be seen.
      • Be courteous and a good bike ambassador.


      • Obey all traffic laws.
      • Use hand signals when turning or stopping -- if it is safe to do so. Show everyone around you what you are going to do before you do it.
      • Single file is safer. Bicyclists have the legal right to ride two abreast and to take the full lane when necessary to give adequate space to ride safely. In most cases, riding single file is safer.
      • Yield to pedestrians. They have the right of way.


      • Scan ahead and anticipate what others will do.
      • Tell others what you are going to do by saying: "Stopping", "Slowing", "Passing on your left". Announce "Broken" when the group becomes separated.
      • Call out hazards such as: "Glass", "Sand", "Post". Use your outside voice.
      • Do not yell "Clear" at intersections. Everyone should check for themselves.
      • Cross railroad tracks at a right angle whenever possible. Warn other riders and plan your approach to ensure safe crossing.
    • Wed, November 01, 2023 9:00 AM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

      You can’t buy happiness, but you can  
      buy a bicycle and that’s pretty close.  
      ~ Anonymous

      Many cyclists believe they are safer and more comfortable riding as far to the right as possible. They fear being passed uncomfortably close by a motorist or they feel intimidated by impatient drivers. Riding too far to the right is very dangerous for several reasons: it puts the cyclist in the danger zone of poor sightlines and opening car doors; it invites motorists to attempt to pass too closely; and it takes away the cyclist's escape route to the right in the event of the unexpected. Take responsibility for your own safety and decide when to take the lane, even if other traffic must occasionally slowly follow you until there’s an opportunity to pass by crossing over to the next lane.

      For a more thorough discussion of how to position your bike when riding in traffic, see Chapter 2 of Bicycling Street Smarts: Riding Confidently, Legally, and Safely, by John S. Allen.

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

      Don’t buy upgrades, ride up grades  
      ~ Eddy Merckx  

      Many of the great rides we have in our area travel hills and have long descents. There are some important considerations for safely handling descents. Begin at home the day before the ride by inspecting your bicycle.. Make sure your tires and brakes are in good condition and tires are fully inflated. Inspect your wheels for any misalignment or looseness.

      During your ride when descending, move back in the saddle to prepare for emergency stops. Many experts recommend getting "in the drops" where you have full braking leverage and a lower center of gravity. Take care when passing fellow cyclists, always passing to the left, and announcing yourself before you pass. But most of all, SLOW DOWN! This is not a race and our roads are not in perfect condition, especially in the winter months when rain, leaves, and other debris are frequently present. You will enjoy the ride more if you are relaxed and not pushing the limits of your bike, road conditions, or your own abilities.

      I want to especially note descending Page Mill as requiring extra care. In the Western Wheeler crash data I maintain, this is the one location that has seen multiple crashes. Seven Wheelers have crashed descending Page Mill in the past 4.5 years. Two involved some interaction with cars, but the other five were solo bike incidents, likely related to speed and road conditions (the exact cause of the crashes was not always known). So please, use EXTRA CARE when descending Page Mill.

    • 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!

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