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  • Bike Safety Tips

    Originally Published in the Flat Tyre

    • 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.

    • Wed, July 01, 2020 9:00 AM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

      A horse is a horse, of course, of course,       
      And no one can talk to a horse of course       
      That is, of course, unless the horse       
      is the famous Mr. Ed.       

      In keeping with the historical theme, this week’s safety tip is drawn from a column on the subject from an old issue of the Flat Tyre.

      While most of us are familiar with how to interact with cars, other bicyclists and pedestrians, many of us are less familiar with the proper etiquette when meeting up with and passing horses. When you meet up with a horse on a road or pathway, there are several things to know that help make the interaction a safe one for you, the person riding the horse, and for the horse itself. Bicyclists often frighten horses who sometimes bolt uphill when spooked, causing potential danger for everyone involved. Section 21759 of the California Vehicle Code gives people riding or leading stock animals the right to direct pedestrians, cyclists, and motorists to ensure their safety and the safety of their animals.

      When meeting with a horse on a road be sure to:

      • Slow down and pull over to the side
      • Actually stop if it’s a narrow road
      • Quietly greet the rider and ask if you are ok where you are
      • Follow any instructions from the person on the horse

      If you come up from behind a horse on a road or trail, be sure to slow down and as you approach the equestrian call out a friendly greeting from about 50-75 feet away. Ask the person what they would like you to do or how they would like you to get by. Find out if they would like you to get off and walk or pass slowly at the next safe spot. Most importantly, do not approach a horse from behind on a narrow pathway. If you see that you are coming up behind a horse or horses, you need to stop and wait until the path is clear.

    • Mon, June 01, 2020 9:00 AM | Anonymous member (Administrator)
      It never gets easier. You just go faster.          

      ~ Greg LeMond          

      As we move into summer, the days are getting longer and hotter. Due to the current pandemic, many sources of water like water fountains or bathrooms with running water are closed. So, extra care must be taken to stay hydrated.

      While hydration is important all year long, on warm or hot days we perspire much more and need to remember to drink frequently during a ride. Everyone has a different internal thermometer, but it’s important to know your own needs and tend to them in all weather. Like several others, I have an alarm set on my cycle computer to remind me to drink at regular intervals. With the shortage of water sources, on longer rides you should carry extra water, say two large water bottles and refill your bottles at every opportunity.

    • Fri, May 01, 2020 9:00 AM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

      Cycling can be lonely, but in a good way.         
      ~ David Byrne           

      With many of us riding solo or in small groups, it is more important than ever to be very conspicuous by wearing bright colors and using lights. Many people are out driving as a break from being sheltered in place and are often more interested in the scenery than watching the road. Unfortunately, they are often driving too fast. 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 draws further attention. Blinking lights, both rear and front, are sure ways to be very noticeable to drivers (see the article in this issue about lights). 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.

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